SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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[H.A.S.C. No. 1066]
NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT
FOR FISCAL YEAR 2000H.R. ????
OVERSIGHT OF PREVIOUSLY AUTHORIZED PROGRAMS
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
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MILITARY PERSONNEL SUBCOMMITTEE HEARINGS
TITLE IVPERSONNEL AUTHORIZATIONS
TITLE VMILITARY PERSONNEL POLICY
TITLE VICOMPENSATION AND OTHER PERSONNEL BENEFITS
TITLE VIIHEALTH CARE PROVISIONS
FEBRUARY 22, 1999
UNDERSTANDING THE MILITARY PERSONNEL RETENTION ISSUES
House of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Military Personnel Subcommittee,
Washington, DC, Monday, February 22, 1999.
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in Ely Hall, Bachelor Officer Quarters, Naval Station, Norfolk, Virginia, Hon. Steve Buyer (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. STEVE BUYER, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM INDIANA, CHAIRMAN, MILITARY PERSONNEL SUBCOMMITTEE
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Mr. BUYER. Hearing of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee will come to order.
This is the first hearing conducted by the Subcommittee on Military Personnel this year. I suspect that when we look back as we work on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, once it's signed into law, we will consider having gone to the field to listen to the witnesses in these panels today will be a very good step, and we'll probably look back on this as one of the most important hearings we will have conducted this entire year.
By way of opening, I want to thank Commander in Chief, Atlantic Command [CINCLANT], Admiral Reason, for hosting us here. I would also like to thank the public affairs office at CINCLANT and Naval Station Norfolk for their assistance. I would also like to thank my colleagues, who have traveled from all over the United States to be here at this hearing, and I want to assure everyone that those who serve on the Armed Services Committee, and particularly Military Personnel, we deal with a lot of important issues, and whether it's your health care, the judicial system, but in particular the forestructure and your pay and benefits, it has our full attention.
Our objective today is to better understand the reasons why military retention has become such a challenge to the services. To address this issue, we're fortunate to have the real retention experts testify before us today. It's you, the men and women in the armed services, and in particular their families. Mr. Abercrombie and I wanted to make sure that not only did we hear from those of you who are in uniform, but just as important an ingredient of that team are the spouses, and that's why I wanted to make sure that we had a spouse team, because I remember being stationed at Fort Eustis, and my wife was with me, and if she wasn't happy, life wasn't very easy on me, either. So the military family is very important, and we'll hear from them.
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I can assure you that the views that you will give to the subcommittee today in your testimony will help shape the course of the pay and retirement programs that are now under consideration in Congress. We want to understand the issues that are causing men and women to leave the military, and perhaps more importantly, we want your advice and your counsel on changes that need to be made to reverse the negative retention trends in the military.
The retention problems in the military are real. The Navy retention is tenten percentage points below force- sustaining rates in virtually every enlisted and officer retention category. The Chief of Naval Operations considers retention his No. 1 immediate concern. The Air Force is below force-sustaining objectives in every category of enlisted retention for the first time in 18 years. The Army and Marine Corps are spending millions of additional dollars to bolster reenlistment bonus programs to achieve retention objectives that are increasingly more difficult to attain. All the services are unable to stem the flow of pilots to airline cockpits, with the Air Force being at most risk, with 15 percent pilot shortage, over 2000 pilots, projected for fiscal year 2002.
This may not be a retention crisis, but it is not an environment that we can allow to go unattended. The Department of Defense and Congress must in fact act quickly if we areif we hope to keep the services' retention programs from becoming a very slippery slope into a hollow force.
The services are struggling to keep an all-volunteer force afloat. In addition to retention, the services are struggling to find recruits to man the force. Up to now the services' response to a difficult recruiting environment has been to reduce recruit quality, both in the Army and Navy. They have lowered their recruit quality standards in the Air Force and Marine Corps, have seen recruit quality erode. That is a trend that I disagree with. I do not believe that lower quality is a long-term solution. I now understand that the Secretary of the Army has announced his intention to establish education standards below the Department of Defense standard. I am troubled by his announcement and very concerned we are moving in the wrong direction on recruit quality.
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The Department of Defense and the Senate have offered pay and retirement packages to address the retention issues. It was in February 1998 that I asked all of the chiefs about the question on the retirement and the Military Retirement Reform Act of 1986 [Redux] and whether or not that should be changed. The reason I brought that up is because I can see in a sense this retention problem growing and growing, plus if you're just a good listener, to the force youpeople say, wait a minute, I am going to be in a different retirement system than someone else and I'm working side by side with them. So if Members of Congress are beginning to hear that, I wanted to find out if in fact the chiefs recognized it as a problem. Theyit was interesting at that hearing because they all turned and they all started looking at each other at that hearing, but fortunately they did say, yes, it was a major concern to them.
The Department of Defense calculates that their proposal that has been submitted to Congress would add $24.5 billion to pay and retirement programs. The Department of Defense calculates that the Senate package would increase the Administration's plus-ups by another 10.5 billion dollars.
Because of the very large investments involved, this subcommittee intends to closely examine the proposals to make certain that tax dollars are spent in the most effective and efficient manner possible. There is already some evidence the Department of Defense proposal will not solve the Navy's retention concerns. We need to be certain that the final solution will get the job done. Today's hearing is the first step in what I believe is a deliberative process.
Mr. Abercrombiebefore we get started, I want to yield to ranking member Mr. Abercrombie from Hawaii and also want to compliment him. The two of us together are in concert toward a very deliberative approach. The Administration moved out on their proposal. I've not seen a rational basis with regard to their proposal, and we want to understand what their recommendation is. Likewise, the Senate has responded, and I'm not so completely inI don't completely understand the rational basis of their plan. So that's the purpose of the subcommittee getting out of Washington, D.C. and being here with you.
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I now turn to the ranking member, Mr. Abercrombie, from Hawaii.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Buyer can be found in the appendix.]
STATEMENT OF HON. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM HAWAII, RANKING MEMBER, MILITARY PERSONNEL SUBCOMMITTEE
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much, Mr. Buyer.
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the services, it's important for you to understand the philosophy of the chairman and the subcommittee. That's the reason for these opening statements. We have a long hearing today, and we're most anxious to hear from you, but we think, as evidenced by the remarks made by the chairman, that it's very, very important that you have a foundation for your remarks in terms of a reflection on the philosophy of the subcommittee as it approaches this very, very important subject.
The reason for it, while it may be obvious to you and toandmay be obvious to you but not necessarily obvious to the public at large, the decisions that will be made first by the subcommittee, the full committee and then by the House and the Senate and finally in Congress, will set the foundation for the next century as we turn to the next century, set the foundation probably in terms of pay and benefits for those who are presently seated before us today and those who come after for a good time to come. Therefore, your remarks today are very, very important to us and very, very important to those who are relying upon you to give us the information we need to make a good decision. I hope that doesn't make you feel more tense than you already feel about making the presentation. I assure you you're among friends here, and take youryou can take your time, and if you need to reflect on anything that you're going to say, you're not only welcome to do it but encouraged.
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Mr. Chairman, I have a statement I would like to submit for the record, but in the interest of time I'll just summarize very quickly. I look forward to having a discussion on this complimentedcomplicated, rather, decisionmaking process for the individual, for those of you who are seated here, representing everyone else in the armed services, cannot be reduced to an arithmetic calculation but as a careful consideration with respect to job satisfaction, private sector opportunities, compensation, and a quality of life. You are grappling with these decisions now and your insights are going to be very, very valuable to us. I can assure you that everyone here is interested in what you have to say. I am especially interested, and to the degree thatI can tell you, rather, that this hearing today is on the mind of the Secretary of Defense. I was with him on Saturday for the change of command in the Pacific, and with the Chief of Naval Operations on Thursday as he was visiting Hawaii, and if you're wondering how I managed to be there and here at the same time, it has not much to do with Star Trek but the fact that I was in Hawaii yesterday and here this morning. So I'm going to try and stay alert to everything you have to say, and I'm sure subject matter in and of itself is so inherently interesting thatand vital that I won't have any trouble doing that.
So with that, Mr. Chairman, I'll submit my report and look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Abercrombie can be found in the appendix.]
Mr. BUYER. I recognize Mr. Hayes of North Carolina for any opening remarks he may have.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HAYES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Congressman Abercrombie. I think yours was a good idea. We're here to hear our finest young men and women and their wives speak to us, so I will put my statement in the record as well, but I appreciate you coming. I think this is my 44th day on the job, and I really enjoy the opportunity to come to these locations and share your ideas and listen to what you're going through.
I'm from the Eighth District of North Carolina. I spent several days at Pope Air Force Base; and Fort Bragg yesterday, and there is one thing in my statement that I want to stress here. It's very clear to me that personal readiness and personal motivation are extremely high, but when I hear people say morale is high, I cannot quite accept that because with the challenges that you face in the military, I stress, again, motivation and personal readiness are very high, but morale is not where it should be because we're not doing in Congress what we need to do to support you for your incredible efforts on behalf of us and our country. So I want to thank you for that and make that qualification and encourage you.
And one thing I heard in Washington as I look at the wives out thereand I left my wife this morning coming up here. We've been married 31 years, and it was stressed to us when we got to Washington, remember, the Member votes, but the spouse rules. So I think that's a good point for all of us to remember as we move forward. Again, thank you for your willingness to be here. We look forward to hearing from you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hayes can be found in the appendix.]
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Hayes has Fort Bragg, North Carolina in his district, the land of chiggers and ticks, but great fighting men and women, I want you to know. I spent my time there so I know that.
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It's also a pleasure to have Mr. Larson here of Massachusetts. I'll recognize you for any comments you may have.
Mr. LARSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I don't mean to correct you. I'm from Connecticut.
Mr. BUYER. Connecticut. It's one of those small little states up there.
Mr. LARSON. A very significant state, the Constitution state, as a matter of fact, and it's an honor and pleasure to be here, and let me echo the remarks of the chair and the ranking member, how delighted we are to be here to listen to the men and women who wear the uniform.
I have three small children at home myself. I'm very concerned about the stresses and the impact of quality-of-life issues, and I think that has a direct bearing on retention. I have a brother who is a major in the Air Force, stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base, and so I hear firsthand on a regular basis about the concerns that the men and women of our armed services have. So I'm excited to be here in Virginia's Second Congressional District, Mr. Pickett, and look forward to the comments that I hear from each and every one of you this afternoon.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Larson, I will never make that mistake again.
Mr. LARSON. That's OK.
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Mr. BUYER. You can confuse Indiana with Illinois.
Mr. LARSON. We are ahead of Indiana, I know, in the basketball polls.
Mr. BUYER. I deserve that.
I'll recognize Mr. Kuykendall of California.
Mr. HAYES. I went to Duke.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. I have spent a little time in the Marine Corps myself when we had a retention problem back in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I have a daughter who is currently in the Navy flying F14s on the Enterprise. I hear her life-style pretty regularly via e-mail. I also know how intimidating a meeting like this can be because, having been a captain in the Marine Corps I knew that there were just a few people that outranked me, that most of them would obey anything I said, but we'rewe're interested in your most candid remarks, as well as any input you would like to give us.
I would like you to be sure you feel comfortable that if you don't want to say something at this panel, you should feel free to send us an e-mail. Most of you probably have access to that, and our e-mail addresses are easily picked up off of this web site for the House of Representatives, or if you don't want to do that, write us a letter, and you can just take our name here and put it to our attention at the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and I'll assure you we'll get it, maybe a day slower because you didn't have the exact address, but that will get to us as well, and pass that along to your spouses and family members as well. ThereI'm sure there may be something you would want to say that may not be something you want to have on television or written in the newspaper. We all have those kind of comments, and it would be useful for us to have those as well.
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I'm anxious to hear what you have to say. I don't think I've enjoyed anything as much since I was a Marine as I do what I'm doing now, but the input from you all is very important to us. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. I thought once a Marine always a Marine.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. I didn't deny still being a Marine. I have only one button that I wear. It was harder to earn this than it was yours.
Mr. BUYER. Is this pick on the chairman day? I just want to get the ground rules straight here.
It isit's a pleasure to be here in the Tidewater region and a double pleasure to be in the district of Congressman Owen Pickett, here in the Second District of Virginia, and we're pleased to have him here, and I want everyone to know that he is a highly distinguished member of the House Armed Services Committee, and on a personal note, Owen doesn't always speak, but when Mr. Pickett speaks, we all listen, and with that I want to recognize Mr. Pickett.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to welcome you and the other members of the Military Personnel Subcommittee to the Second District of Virginia that I proudly represent in the U.S. House of Representatives, and I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing here where the action is, where the people are, rather than in Washington. I know that while those folks at the table this morning may feel a little bit nervous, I suspect you would feel a lot more nervous if we were holding this hearing in the Rayburn Building there in Washington.
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Mr. Chairman, you left this morning from our nation's capital, Washington, to come here to Norfolk, Virginia, but I want you to know that Norfolk, Virginia is the world capital for the United States Navy, so we welcome you here this morning. I'm looking forward to the testimony from our witnesses.
Mr. Kuykendall said it right. What you have to say, what you can tell us, is extremely valuable, and it will be dealt with. I mean, it will be acted upon, because we want to have the right policy to attract and keep quality people in our military, and military leaders tell us time and time again that without quality people we cannot have a quality force. We know that, and that's what we're trying to do. Thank you very much, and welcome, again.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Pickett.
The first panel we have I'll introduce, and then each of you will give a short opening statement, as I understand.
First we'll have Sgt. Gareth Dembo of the United States Army. He's a musician at Fort Monroe. Next will be Specialist Misty Mobley of the United States Army, administrative clerk with the military police, Fort Monroe. Next we'll have Petty Officer Kevin J. Farrell, United States Navy, an engineman on USS Cole (DDG). We'll have Petty Officer Second Class David Piecuch, United States Navy, electronics technician, USS Eisenhower (CVN 69). We'll have Senior Airman Scott Frazer, United States Air Force, security police, Shaw Air Force Base. Next we'll have Senior Airman Nicole Cassata, United States Air Force, aircraft communications technician, Dover Air Force Base. Then we'll hear from Corporal Gordon English, United States Marine Corps, Military Police, Camp Lejeune, and then we'll hear from Corporal Christopher B. Williams, United States Marine Corps Infantry, Camp Lejeune.
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The first panel will consist of first-term service members. Sergeant Dembo, we'll open with you.
STATEMENT OF SGT. GARETH DEMBO, UNITED STATES ARMY
Sergeant DEMBO. Good morning. My name is Sgt. Gareth Dembo from the United States Continental Army Band, stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia. I'm an oboe player. This is my first term of service. I'm from Florida, and I will be separating in about 5 months.
Mr. BUYER. Will you turn that mike toward you? Put it right in front of you so you don't have to
Sergeant DEMBO. OK. My primary areas of concerns dealing with my decision to leave the service include the quality-of-life issues for single soldiers in the Army and also pay reasons.
Mr. BUYER. You can go a little bit further than that.
Sergeant DEMBO. I have noticed in my term of servicepresently now I'm employed outside of the Army to meet my financial goals of saving, and my current financial status just with my military paycheck is not enough for me to save. It might be a good idea to start some sort of savings plan for service members.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm also very concerned with my standard of living as a single soldier in barracks. I presently live in a very small room. Though I do have my own bathroom, I am grateful for that, but the quality of life for me right now as a noncommissioned officer in the United States Army is not what I think it should be, especially with what is going on outside in the civilian world. The economy is looking very good. Job market is looking very good, and why am I going to stay in the service and live in a very small room when I can have three times a better place to live and quality of life outside of the service?
Mr. BUYER. Let meby way of an opening here, so that you'll understand what we're looking for and how you can be mostmost helpful, each of you made a decision to join your particular service, and you're in your first term, and if you're gettingif you're getting out, we want to know why you're leaving, or if you're going to make a decision to stay, we want to know what your thinking is about it, because you're going to play a very important role here, very important role. So we need to understand part of that decision, what your real life isis going through.
STATEMENT OF SPEC. MISTY MOBLEY, UNITED STATES ARMY
Specialist MOBLEY. Good morning. My name is Spec. Misty Mobley, and I am originally from South Carolina. I'm currently assigned to Fort Monroe, Virginia, to the military police activity as the orderly room clerk, and I have another 2 years left in the Army, but as of now I'm planning on getting out just to go to school and get an education so I can buildup and have a career by the time I'm like 30, and I want to have a family, and I really don't think that the Armythat the Army is the place for me to raise my family in the future. That's about all.
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Mr. BUYER. What is your second reason?
Specialist MOBLEY. It was the family issue. The first one was for my education. I want to go to 4 years straight, go to college, and my second was the family issue.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Petty Officer Farrell.
STATEMENT OF PETTY OFFICER KEVIN J. FARRELL, UNITED STATES NAVY
Petty Officer FARRELL. Good morning. My name is Petty Officer Farrell. I'm originally from Boston, stationed on board USS Cole (DDG 67), stationed here in Norfolk. My intentionsI'm getting out of the Navy in 15 days. I have 15 days left. I'm getting out. I've been offered a lot of good jobs. I've been offered retirement plans. I've been offered savings plans, and from numerous companies. The Navy just doesn'tdoesn't give me anyI live paycheck to paycheck every week, and I just cannotI can't see myself doing it much longer, especially when I've been offered almost three times what I get in the Navy right now as a paycheck for what I do in the Navy, and I work long hours. I work sometimes 10 hours a day, and I will be getting paid overtime out in theout in the civilian sector, and the Navy just can't compete. I have a lot of friends that do the same thing I do. I see them buying houses. I can barely pay rent. I'm trying to make a house payment or whatever. You know, I need stability, financial stability, and the military just doesn't give it to me.
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I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun, but I've got 15 days left, and I got to say goodbye. You know, I have noI had a lot of fun in the military. I've seen a lot of things, a lot of different countries and a lot of different places and I've had a lot of fun, but I need that financial stability to keep myselfI want to put kids through college. There is no way I will be able to do it. I justI don't see it happening. So those are my main reasons for getting out.
Mr. BUYER. OK. Petty Officer Piecuch.
STATEMENT OF PETTY OFFICER 2ND CLASS DAVID PIECUCH, UNITED STATES NAVY
Petty Officer PIECUCH. Good morning. I'm Petty Officer Piecuch. I'm currently stationed on board the USS Eisenhower. I'm working as an electronics technician [ET], in communications and radar equipment. As an ET, I've seenI see a lot of people throughout the ship, and a lot of people I've talked to are getting out of the Navy right now due toone of theI've got two keytwo main reasons why I'm undecided.
One of the reasons why I'm undecided is because me and fellow colleagues, this last year we had deployment. We were supposed to pull out June 10th, and our whole entire schedule got changed. We were pulled back 2 months, and we were moved back forward to June 10th. So we had a 2-month window basically of when we were going to pull out. A lot of people sent their families home, and it just tore the family apart. We hadsome people didn't see their family for 9 months. Our air wing who comes on board with us, they didn'tsome of them were gone for 10 months away from their families. That's justit's very hard. I'm very close to my family, and I just don't like being pulled away from them. That's one of the reasons to get out.
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The other reason I have is, I have to agree with Petty Officer Farrell. It's the money. Right now with the retirement plan there isthe average person that's an E7 in the Navy will pull home about $700 a month. Granted, that's a house payment, but that's all it is. You can't get by on that. I knowa lot of people I know 15 years in the military, got 5 years left and they're getting out just because they can get a better job and make more money. Me, myself, as an electronics technician, I can make anywhere from two times to three times the amount of money that I make in the Navy in any state. That's my main reason to get out.
The one reason I do have to kind of stay in is that I have an opportunity for orders to go work at the White House, so that's one opportunity that I have that's keeping me if I want to go in or get out.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you. Senior Airman Frazer.
STATEMENT OF SENIOR AIRMAN SCOTT FRAZER, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
Airman FRAZER. Good morning. I'm Senior Airman Scott Frazer. I'mI'm a security forces specialist from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, a member of the 20th Force Squadron. First I would like to thank you guys for being here this morning, taking the time out of your busy schedules to come and listen to what we have to say and to try and make a difference.
In addition to what the membersthe witnesses before me have said, I think that it is a shame that a person can serve in the greatest military in the world and yet have an annual income at or below poverty level. A recent study found there are currently 11,000 military members collecting food stamps.
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Another area of concern is operations tempo [OPSTEMPO]. A little highlight of my career to show what the operation tempo is a little bit like, since my arrival at Shaw Air Force Base in February 1996, my career has consisted of three different deployments to Southwest Asia. I initially spent 8 months at Shaw before I deployed to Kuwait for a 3-month tour. My return then to the states lasted for only 5 months before I was redeployed to Taif, Saudi Arabia, where I spent a four and-a-half month tour. I then returned from Taif for approximately five and-a-half months before I deployed for another 4 months to Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia.
The work cycle that is implemented during these tours usually consists of a 90-hour work week, with only 2 days of down time. Unfortunately, the frequency of these deployments has seriously affected many marriages, because at the time when I did these tours I was a single airman. I had friends that were married during these same tours.
The last area of concern I'm going to offer is the deterioration of benefits for Active Duty and retired military personnel. Many airmen are concerned with retirement benefits. We have seen the benefits of those who have served before us slowly diminish. When the U.S. Government cuts the benefits of its veterans who have seen the horrors of war while fighting to keep this nation great, I start to wonder what will happen to my benefits if I were to retire without having even served in a war.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Senior Airman Nicole Cassata.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF SENIOR AIRMAN NICOLE CASSATA, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
Airman CASSATA. Good morning, Congressmen. My name is Senior Airman Nicole Cassata. I've been in the Air Force for over 3 years, and I'm currently undecided upon reenlisting. There is not just one reason for my decision. Life on the flight line has become very stressful. The OPSTEMPO directly affects the aircraft maintenance and makes life hard with our decreasing numbers. The skilled trainers that the new airmen rely on for training are gone. I myself had to look to civilians that work with us for advanced knowledge, and even the civilian men are being cut as well.
I was temporary duty [TDY] 90 days last year. That may not seem a lot to somebody like SPs and the other Navy, but it was four different locations. It's hard to go to college or plan anything for your life when you can leave only on a moment's notice.
The quality in the work center is also a factor. Technical orders in which we use to fix the equipment is in disrepair. It's not uncommon to find a page or even a book missing from the aircraft.
It's not just OPSTEMPO, either, that weighs my decision. I'd like to see better pay raises. Pension is also a concern. It's notit's hard to keepit's hard not to keep comparing my job and what I get paid with the outside. I could easily get a job on the outside with my technical skills, better benefits, and the military used to offset the price differencesthe pay differences, but now the benefits are not as well. I can find better health care and other benefits, such as college tuition assistance, on the outside, and I'm very concerned about my future and where I'll be 20 years down the road. I want to feel secure and the fact that I will not have to struggle to pay my bills.
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TRICARE seems to place more roadblocks instead of green lights in the way of getting satisfactory health care. Local doctors are denying service because of all the red tape involved in receiving their money. When I'm sick, I really don't want to wait a week to see a doctor. You're fine by then.
I'm honored to be here, and I hope I can help you as much as I can.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF CPL. GORDON ENGLISH, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Corporal ENGLISH. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I'm from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, military police. I have 2222 days left in the Marine Corps. I'm definitely getting out, without a doubt. I've had a great time. I've learned so much, and I have seenI've been on leave and I've seen what other civilians are doing, and now, being in the Marine Corps and learning what I've learned, I can run circles around any one of the civilians in any job they do and make twice as much as I do now.
The problems that I've had since I've been in the Marine Corps is equal advancement, which bothers me every single day, how I can be in an Military Occupational Specialty [MOS] and it be closed out from my rank or my cutting score being an MP is close to 1700 when someone to my left or to my right is in a different MOS and gets promoted twice as fast, makes more money than me just because they have a different MOS. I think it should be more equal as far as getting promoted soand educational opportunities, time for college and that sort of thing, I think all the schools I've been to definitely surpass what people learn in college today, but I hope to go to college as soon as I get out and get a great job.
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Thanks for letting me be here today.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF CPL. CHRISTOPHER B. WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Corporal WILLIAMS. Good morning, gentlemen. My name is Corporal Williams. I'm an infantryman stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. What they've all said is pretty much the same thing I have to say, other than the pay and the base salary. I mean, if any of you have been to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a 9-month waiting list to live at Tarwood Terrace isn't exactly a good wait, and when you get there, it's substandard. It's pretty much below poverty. I mean, that's not a place you want to take your wife and live for the rest of your time in the military. Then you go out in town and try to live and the money they allow you is just not enough. It's not even close to being enough.
I mean, the Marine Corps is by far a class above anything else I've seen, I mean, the discipline, the work ethic. I mean, I've learned more in the 4 years I've been in the Marine Corps than I think anybody can learn in college, but given the way things are now and the economy, I would say I would have to get out, go to school to where I could make enough money to withstand an adequate life-style.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. Thank you. Petty Officerexcuse me, strike that. Senior Airman Frazer, are you undecided or are you getting out?
Airman FRAZER. I'll be getting out, sir, in 6 months.
Mr. BUYER. I have a series of questions and then I'm going to turn it over to my colleagues for some questions of each of you. If you could change, add, or remove one policy or program to improve some of the retention attitudes not only of yourself but even that of your colleagues, what would it be?
Sergeant DEMBO. If I could change one programthis might sound a little strange, sirin the Army we have a program called Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers. I don't know if any of you gentlemen are familiar with that, but basically what it is, it's a way to provide single soldiers some extra activities, extracurricular activities during our off time. I think the program should be expanded.
A large portion of the basesI can only speak from where I know, but I'm sure on bases that have a large majority of single soldiers, having more dollars, more money to do single soldier things, that might actually help improve morale. The way it stands now the program is being implemented, but there is not enough funds to provide these soldiers extra trips, for example. For example, on our installation sometimes we might take a trip to the Bahamas once a year, but the rest of the time is spent fund-raising and doing details because we don't havewe have the support from our command structure, but we don't have enough money, and so if we're looking at retention issues and making people happy, making the single soldiers happy, this might be something you would want to look at, providing more money for social programs for single people to make them happier. If you have a happy soldier, I would be willing to bet that they would want to reenlist.
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Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Petty Officer PIECUCH. One of the key things for retention that I would have to say would be under way time for the Navy. If I do decide to reenlist, I will be on board the ship for 5 years. That's a lot of time to be at sea, but out of those 5 years, I would be on boardI would most likely be away from home for about three. That'sif there was a way thatI know the Chief of Naval Operations [CNO] right now ishe has drafted a policy to combine some of the training in between deployments, and I think that's one of the best things I've ever seen done, but the other thing is the retirement issue. Right now I think it's at 40 percent. That was drafted in 1986. It needs to be increased because there ispeople who have been here and doing the same job I'm doing are making 50 percent right now and I'm just going to pull 40 percent. I don't see that asas being a fair issue. I'm doing the same job every single member has done and every single person who has retired.
So that's one of the things, my benefits, or even a 401k plan because I can get out of the Navy, go get a job in the civilian community, get a 401k plan and have a pretty decent retirement set aside instead of 50 percent or even 40 percent.
Petty Officer FARRELL. I agree with Sergeant Dembo about you want the single E1s to E4syou want to keep them happy. He lives in a roomhe says he has got his own bathroom and his own TV and whatever. If you live on a ship, you live in a two-by-seven, what is called a coffin, and that's what you own. That's where you live if you're an E1 to E4. You share a TV with 35 guys. You share a head with 35 guys. These guys are not happy living on that ship. If they're married, then they're getting sustenance to live out in town.
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E1 to E4, you're out of luck, especially if you're an E1 to E3. We get what is called sea pay for petty officers once you make E4. If you're E1 to E3, you don't get the sea pay. So why do they call it sea pay? You still are on the ship with everybody else. Why don't they call it petty officer pay orthey call it sea pay, though, and these guys E1 to E3 live on that ship. They don't get it. I lived on that ship for 3 years. I was miserable. I couldn't stand it. I made the best of it, but, you know, I had to share a TV and metal chairs with 35 guys sitting down there, and it's not happy. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. One of the positions I view as luxury that this committee has is, the Administration has sort of locked themselves in a recommendation to Congress. The Senate is on the floor today debating their own plan. Yet we're going to be more deliberative here. That's the reason for some of our questions to you. We want to be open to some ideas and creativity so when you have a difference between those who came into the service in pre-1986 and then you have 1986 forward at 40 percent, we don't have to say, well, we're just going to take those from 1986 forward and just say, well, we're going to make that 50 percent like the rest. We want to be creative here and be open to different ideas just to explore it.
So let me ask you about this possibility. If in fact we are to say for the 1986 forward group that are at the 40 percent, if we were to say we want to create a thrift savings plan [TSP], and do a 401k-style match, where you'll put some money in and the government then matches, versus just increasing it to 50 percent, I want to getwould thatthose of you who are getting out, would that enticementbe one of the factors that you may consider to stay or not to stay? I know there is a whole laundry list of things, but help us out here in that decision.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Just 1 second. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
So that you understand exactly whatwe're not asking you toto make a decision right here on the spot, but so that you understand, what the chairman is putting forward is what Members of Congress and other Federal employees have an opportunity to decide. What the chairman is talking about is something that we canthat Ione of the reasons that I am interested in this, and I think other members, is, this plan is available to other Federal employees, and what it means is you put a certain amount of money in. It can be a differing amount, and there will be a government match to a certain percentage to that, and then that can be invested, and that becomescan be, if it's managed correctly, obviously, a considerable nest egg, and, of course, it's tax-deferred. So inwhat the chairman is asking, not so much tofor you to make a decision about 40 to 50 percent versus this, but rather he's trying to be creativewe're trying to be creative in figuring out what can we do that will actually advantage you or your colleagues in terms of feeling comfortable thatthat the time that you put in the service is simultaneously creating a foundation for you for the future.
Mr. BUYER. Any thoughts?
Sergeant DEMBO. Mr. Chairman, I agree with you. I think a savings plan is a veryis a great idea because if youif you go ahead and take away the 40 percent and make it 50 percent, you're only going to get 50 percent when you retire, whereas we all know, just principles and mathematics, if you start saving earlier, if an E1 comes in with 1 year of service and starts saving 5 percent and the government is going to contribute another 5 percent, you've got all that money working from day one, whereas I have to wait 20 years before I can see the benefit to that. So in that regard I do believe it's an outstanding proposal.
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The only thing I would be concerned about is would the actual soldier, airman, seaman, or Marine have a say where the money gets invested? What kinds of funds are available? Is there a government fund, a growth fund, maybe a money market fund or a stock fund? Do we have any control over the type of risk we want to take?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Yes.
Mr. BUYER. That would be very important.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You have a choice. There are stocks. There iswell, you have two or three differences, without going into all the details, because
Mr. BUYER. Whatever system we would have, we would make sure there was a series of choices so an individual could decide what level of risk they were willing to take.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And you could mix it. It wouldn't have to be oneall one. You couldyou know, maybe 50 percent in stocks and then 25 percent and 25 percent or however. There is all kinds90/10, whatever.
Mr. BUYER. Does anyone else have a comment?
Airman CASSATA. I agree with the thrift savings plan. It would be best to start early and start saving. If someif airmen haveor, other, you know, services, if they have the chance to start saving and working toward having money at their retirement, it would be a good idea, and the pension at 40 percent, 50 percent, the numbers areyou know, doesn't mean that much, but a thrift savings plan, starting out early, investing well would be a lot more.
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Mr. BUYER. So that you understand the essence of this question, and then I'm going to yield to my colleagues, is, most of these 401k plans and savings plans require a vesting period, and most require 5 years to vest. So when youwhen you take your oath and you sign up for the GI bill or whatever you all are going to sign up for and you say I want to be in that thrift savings plan, let's say you want to get out after your first 3-year enlistment. Well, you can get out, but you're not going to get outthe money that you're not going to get is going to be that which the government set forward to match. You would not get that. So it would require a 5-yearnaturally, your second term.
So now what we're thinking about here is, we want enticements and retention out there, and we can be creative on giving a higher match at the 10- or 12-year mark. I want to let you know that.
Petty Officer PIECUCH. I would just like to add to that, it would be almost likea lot of things in the military have changed over the years from when you've all served, but if it was more like a businesslike you said, most jobs out in the civilian world, Mr. Chairman, you get a 5-year waiting period. For me, I think that's just fair. It's the same thing as it would be out in the civilian world. Just like one of the key things like money issues, the amount of money you get paid, for what we do in the service, we should match what we could do out in the civilian world. I know every person has a different level of experience, different type of job, but with the 401k, me, myself, I would not mind that 5 years, to have to wait. That would be perfect.
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Petty Officer FARRELL. I would probably stay in an extra year. I've done four right now. I would probably stay in the extra five just to see if I would have something. I would see something that I've been saving money and I've been actually going somewhere. Right now, I mean, like I said, I have a hard time saving any money because, you know, the paycheck alone just pays what I need to pay. So if I never see it from when I was an E1 until I was E5, if I've never seen that money, I would have adjusted to it, and I probably would have some money in a fund right now. So that would have made a big difference.
Mr. BUYER. Yes.
Airman FRAZER. Mr. Chairman, I believe that the TSP would up the ante against civilian jobs that are enticing military personnel to get out. If we had that, if we had a savings plan, if we had a guaranteed retirement pension at, say, 50 percent or, like the S4 bill proposes, a 40 percent with a $30,000 lump sum, you're just upping the ante against civilian jobs that arethat these people are going to. So I definitely think that a TSP would help retention.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Let melet meI'm sorry. Did you haveall right. Let me now yield to Mr. Abercrombie for any questions he may have.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I'm going to yield fairly quickly, Mr. Chairman.
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Just one thing that I would like to get from you folks. With the question of education and improving being able to take courses, et cetera, is it your common experience that because of the duties you have, in effect the ability to get classes or complete a course, is it more theoretical than real?
Petty Officer FARRELL. Shipboard life, you don't have the time. You don't haveeven trying to get a part-time job is almost impossible. Never mind trying to take scheduled classes and take tests. It's nearly impossible.
Airman CASSATA. In maintenance, we're always being deployed. With how few people we have, there is always a chance you will be gone. And so when you sign up for a class and you're halfway through the class and they say you're going to the desert, going to Germany or somewhere else, you lose all that money that you put in there because essentially you failed that class and you have to pay the entire amount for the class.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. If theagain, this is not something we can settle at this hearing, but with respect to that, have there been any attempts to try and see what kind of innovation in that might be made through Internet contact or individualizing courses to where professors and/or instructors could individualize their contacts with you or with the ship, if it was the Navy?
Petty Officer PIECUCH. One of the benefits with the Navy is, on a deployed shiplike I don't know if it's all the ships, but on a carrier, we had instructors, professors from universities come out to the ship, and they took the 6-month deployment, and they actually had courses on board. That was one of the benefits that we had. I don't know how the other services do it when they're deployed, but in that 6-month period you're given an opportunity to take two regular classes, and a lot of people took advantage of that.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Last question on thatin that area. If we were thinking about retention and there was a proposalif we made as part of this paying benefits package that you could at the end of 4 years get tuition or get some break on tuition, would that bewouldn't that be an incentive to leave rather than to stay? I'm not trying to talk you out or anybody out of that, but my first reaction when I heardthere is some talk of this. Are you all aware of that, thatof putting forward some kind of tuition proposal forto help with education? And my first reaction was that that's more an incentive to leave than to stay.
Petty Officer FARRELL. I agree. A lot of people come in for that.
Petty Officer PIECUCH. Well, it's like for me, I'm from Illinois, and one of the benefits that I have from being from Illinois is that I've got the Illinois Veterans Fund, and between that and the GI Bill, college for me is basically almost free, and that's as soon as I get out. I can either get out after my 6 years or Ior after my 20 and it will still be there for me. So that's one of the benefits for me, and that's almost an incentive for me to get out, is knowing I can just get out right away and go to college and finish up my college.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. One other thing in that regard, in order for you toif all of you were going to stay, is there anybody that would disagree that it would be to your advantage to get more education in order to advance within the service? It would be to all of your advantage, would it not?
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Airman FRAZER. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So the difficulty here is trying to figure out how we could make that available in a practical way that doesn't end up with you working the 90 hours and then having to put another 20 in in education, but that has not been resolved for anybody, I take it? Is that true for all services? You were going to say something.
Airman CASSATA. I was out shopping the other day, and I was talking to a salesperson from Vogue, and she said in that company she gets a hundred percent paid for college if she gets an A, and if she gets a B, it's less, maybe 80 percent, 75 percent. If it's a C, it's less than that, and that would be a very good motivation to get A's and get more college paid for, to get the higher grade, and, you know, to excel in your class to get more paid for instead of just 75 percent.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. But there are practical difficulties in actually being able to accomplish it, correct?
Airman CASSATA. Yes. I know one friend of mine, he was just deployed. He washalf his classbetween half his class, so he failed the class. Three times last year I signed up for college and I was deployed, so I couldn't go to the class, so I had to cancel the class. Luckily it was before the class started and I didn't lose any money.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So one of the things that has to be done, then, isam I correct, is that we have to make sure people don't lose money or just getget stiffed becauseon their tuition because they had to be deployed?
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Airman CASSATA. Well, if we knew we would be home, if we knew we would be on station for a certain amount of time, it would be better. If you knew the last 3 months of the year you might be possibly going TDY, maybe the last 6 months of the year you might be going TDY, but the first 6 months you definitely would be home to take college classes, it would be a lot easier. If you knew a definite, it would be easier.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Hayes.
Corporal WILLIAMS. Yes, sir. I would just like to add that if we were just given maybe an opportunity after we did our full deployment timeI know my first yearsmy first 2 years I was sent right to forces in Bahrain. I did two straight years there, OK. When I PCS'd out of there and came back to Camp Lejeune, I was sent to a unit that was deploying in 7 months. So, I mean, you know, I did my time, and it was a great time over there. I mean, we were out there. We did what we had to do for 2 years, but when I came back, I think I should have been given the opportunity to take some classes, be with my family, maybe even get another job along with my military job to save some money without having to turn around and get on a ship and go to the Mediterranean [Med] for 6 months. I mean, that was justthat seemed too quick to me. I mean, it just
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. The effect was to prevent you from continuing your education, is that the point?
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Corporal WILLIAMS. It's not reallyI would like to have enrolled and I would have enrolled in college. If notI tryI mean, the minute I checked in my unitI had been in the United States for 2 months after being gone for 2 years, and the first words I got was 6-month Med float, and when you're working up for a float, for any kind of overseas deployment like that, there is no time for anything but work because you have to get prepared, you know, and get up on your job to get on the ship.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Got it. Thank you.
Airman FRAZER. The military, the education benefits aren't too bad. When they're going to pay for 75 percent of your tuition while you're in, that's not a bad deal. I go back to Wisconsin and they will pay for 50 percent of my tuition in addition to the GI Bill. The problem is, OperationsOPSTEMPO is so high that we're constantly being deployed and we can't take advantage of those benefits.
Mr. HAYES. Question justexcuse me, change of gears just a minute. When you all decided to join, what were one, two, or three of the primary motivating factors that caused you to make that decision?
Corporal ENGLISH. I just have a quick something to say. I don'tI would feel bad to ask to go to school while I'm in the Marine Corps. Who is going to do my job while I take the time out of my day to go to school? I didn't join the Marine Corps to see if I could get college. Maybe tell the service members, OK, maybe we'll make your benefits betteras far as when you get out, your benefits will be better instead of while you're in. Whoyou know, who is going to be the squad leader when I go to school that day? Maybe use that money that may have paid that 75 percent and use that toward when they get out instead of going to school while you're in the service. It bothers me.
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Mr. HAYES. That's a good point.
Back to the question. What were some of the primary motivating factors that caused you to decide to get in the military?
Corporal ENGLISH. It wasn't for the money, sir.
Mr. HAYES. It must have been because you got a chance to spend time in Cuba, Jacksonville, and Swainsboro, right? You need to tell the chairman what a garden spot those areas are.
Petty Officer PIECUCH. One of the key reasons why I joined the military is, I mean, the education I got from the military itself was great. I can take the training I got and go out in the civilian world and get a decent job with it.
Another reason, granted, this last deployment kind of was bad. We were torn apart a lot, but we got to see a lot. So that's one of the things I look forward to. That's why I joined.
Mr. HAYES. So preparation for time beyond the military, whenever that was, and also the opportunity to see different parts of the world? Everybody agree?
Airman FRAZER. Sir, I think that pride and just knowing that you are one of the ones that is keeping your country free. If you were to be called into war, into battle, the pride of knowing you had a part of keeping the United States free was a big motivator, I know, for myself, and I believe Corporal English was getting at the same point.
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Education, the pay, the retirement were all benefits. They were all pluses of defending the country, but now that those are declining, or with the pension, with the opportunity to go to school, hey, you know, that's great, I can do two things at once, but in all actuality, that's notthat's not it. That can't happen. In serving your country, being deployed to Southwest Asia or Germany, you can't take advantage of that, and I think thatI think that now that we don't have a seen enemy, we don't have Russia anymore, we don't have the Cold War, people aren't feeling like they're serving for a reason. They're looking to the benefits, and now that the benefits aren't there, they don't feel like they have any.
Mr. HAYES. This is not intended to be a trick question, but given the circumstances that you describe, are we still pursuing the right course with an all-volunteer force or are we denying people some opportunity by not having some type of draft? What is your thought on that?
Airman CASSATA. If you bring people in that don't want to be here, a lot of them will bemay purposely not do well or have a bad attitude or have really low morale, that they're here and they're here by not their decision. It's a matter of choice that really brings up morale, having a choice to do something, having a choice that no, I don't want to go TDY when I go to class or yes, I want to go TDY, I'll go to class later. I mean, I love going TDY. I have fun, but I also want to have the reliability of a stable life that I know that I'll be TDY this time and I can have class now, and I want to know where I'll be the next day, that I'll be home, that I'll be going some other place, not being on standby for weeks at a time just having to live out of a bag because I may be going the next hour.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HAYES. Well, I think the point you made, Airman Frazer, is, pride and patriotism were motivating factors, which is wonderful, and you see that any time you travel in our military installations. At the same time it occurs to me, given the competitive nature of the corporate environment, a lot of folks automatically are choosing that because of one reason or another, really in many cases not their fault. They didn't see what you saw. So that's what I am hearing from some of the conversations that we've had in the committee, that by strictly going all volunteer we're depriving people of opportunities to serve their country where had they seen what was going on they would have made a different decision. Maybe that's a matter of marketing to the greater public. I don't know, but it seems like a question we will continue to talk about.
Airman CASSATA. I mean, we are depriving them of a great thing. The military is an awesome experience. I mean, just serving your country, it's unbelievable, just being a part of something greater than yourself. We are depriving them, but then again, like I said, it's a matter of choice. If youyou know, if people just don't have the choice, if they're forced into something, if they don't have any way out, you know, they're going to push and they're going to try to, you know, break the rules and do stuff that the military doesn't stand for.
Mr. HAYES. Talking about education briefly again for a minute, if you were able to use your GI education benefits and say you were a married couple, if you could transfer that to your spouse or to your children at some point in time and still have the one benefit but give you the flexibility of letting that extend into your family, would that be a positive thing?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Petty Officer FARRELL. That'sthat's a big thing for me because I want my kids to go to college, so that's very important. I'mI'm a hands-on guy. I like to go out and work with my hands. I'm going to be
Mr. HAYES. They speak a foreign language in Boston, right?
Mr. BUYER. What do you speak?
Mr. HAYES. I spent 4 months in Boston, and everybody treated me well, but every time I opened my mouth, people came into the subway and said who is this strange character, what country is he from?
Petty Officer FARRELL. But that's very important to me, that my kids go to college and that I can save enough money for them to go to college. I would give the whole GI Bill to my children. I might take a class here and there, but I really don't plan on using it, and I would love for my kids to use it, sure. That would be a very big factor for me.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Mr. Larson of Connecticut.
Mr. LARSON. Just to follow up on that, how many on the panel have children at home? Just Kevin Farrell.
My concern was with respect to the education, the primary and secondary education of the kids and theand what the military provides with respect to that in terms of the quality-of-life issue for raising a family, which, to me, would seem long term to be the primary incentive, keeping somebody at a job because they know that they're keeping their family whole and with opportunity for them.
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Petty Officer FARRELL. I agree with that, but the big thing is withleaving your family is the hardest thing. You're going away for 6 months and you're leaving for another 2 months in between that, so you're gone a lot of the time, and that's a bigthat's a big deal with the kids. I wouldI just want to make sure my daughter is secure in her future and make sure she gets a good opportunity to go to college and do what she wants to do, if she wants to go to college, whatever she wants, or give it to my wife or whatever. That's what I would like, to makeI'm not going to use it. I signed up for it just because it sounded like a good thing. It was pay $100 a month for a year and you get all that money.
Mr. LARSON. If there was a plan similar to the thrift plan for college that the government contributed to in part, if there wasif there was an effort on the part of the government's behalf for the primary care and schooling of your children, not when they get to college but prior to them getting to collegehow old are your children, Kevin?
Petty Officer FARRELL. She's five.
Mr. LARSON. So she's just starting.
Petty Officer FARRELL. But that would come into retention. That might keep more people in the Navy, if they knew their family and their children were secure and they would be able to go to college. College is expensive nowadays. I mean, it's hard to put your kids through college without getting all kinds of loans. So that would be a very big retention factor, I believe, to make sure your kids are secure in their future, too.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LARSON. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Sergeant Dembo.
Sergeant DEMBO. Something I wanted to say in terms of educational benefits is, I think all the services have done a great job providing service members an opportunity to further their education, but a problem that I see happening now from the Army's point of view is, they have a lot of enlistment incentives, the college enrollment program, cash bonus program, the GI Bill, but there is like so many exceptions to the rule because you can only use a program with this program, or if you're a specialized shortage military occupational safety, you can only have this. There is a lot ofthere is so many options, it's now getting too complicated, and a lot of times things interfere with each other and you can't use a program. For example, what if you come into the militaryand we want to attract educatedget the best Americans, the young people in the service. What if you already had a bachelor's degree and you have a loan repayment program? Well, with the loan repayment program, some people can't get the Montgomery GI Bill. It's justyou know, and so you're saying you want to increase educational benefits, increase the educational level of the service members, but they've already got their degree, but they don't have any more money after that to follow up. Now, they have to stay to get 75 percent, that's true, but there a lot of different programs available, but sometimes they overlap.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KUYKENDALL. Nothing.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Pickett.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to just ask our group here at the table if maybe they could think back and tell us if when they first enlisted you were thinking about making the military a career or were you thinking I'm going to make this enlistment and get out and do something else?
Airman FRAZER. Sir, I had the intention of doing 20, maybe 20-plus years when I took my oath in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, due to TDYs, due to the low pay that we have for the hours and the jobs that we do, I feel like I can almost better myself by getting out.
Mr. PICKETT. Anyone else want to comment on that, whether you felt that you were starting on a long-term career or whether you were just going to make the three or four or 6 years or whatever your initial enlistment was?
Sergeant DEMBO. Well, I wanted toI needed the discipline. I had just finished college, and I was 22, 23 years old, and I was pretty wild, and I needed to calm down, and I knew if I did 4 years of service in the military and I did a good job that employers would look at me and say, hey, you know, he's pretty just, pretty honest, a hard worker, he went through the military. You know, those are a lot of traits that employers are looking for in the civilian sector. I never intended on doing 20, but I did want to serve, and I think thisas my personal opinion, that all young Americans should have an opportunity to serve because it teaches you a lot of very, very good values.
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Mr. PICKETT. What were you thinking when you were enlisted? Were you planning for a career?
Specialist MOBLEY. No, not really, not a career. I was looking for the opportunities and the education opportunities that were given because I was thinking I could come to the Army, see a little bit of the world, get a little bit of discipline, and while I'm in here, I can get an education while I'm doing all of this. That's what I was thinking.
Mr. PICKETT. OK.
Petty Officer FARRELL. I wasn't sure I was going to make my mind up before I seen something so I had no idea what I was actually getting myself into. So I wanted to see what it was all about first. I wanted to see the world and make my decision from that, so I had no intentions whether I was going to stay in for 20. It was all up in the air when I first joined.
Petty Officer PIECUCH. When I first joined, I had no clue. I was undecided. I joined for 6 years, and it's a lot more than most people do, but when I first got into the Navy and as I went to the education part of my schooling, right there I wanted to do 20 years and everything.
Then I got to my first sea command, and to be on sea for 5 years and to go through what I've had to go through the past year, that's what helps me want to get out. It's justit's just hard.
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Airman CASSATA. When I joined, I really didn't havedidn't look too far ahead. I liked the college benefits. I liked the travel, and it was a little bit of patriotism when I joined, but throughout my 4-year enlistment I have bounced back between being undecided and yes, I'll stay in for 20, but it was the pension and the future that I looked for. The 20 years of doingworking with the OPSTEMPO, that's unreal, and just going out there every day and having to work like 200 percent 12-hour days is not uncommon every other week just to try to keep the planes up to reliability, and it wasbut when you win an award sometimes, it really makes you feel good about yourself, and if you got more pats on your back by your supervisor and say, hey, you did a good job, I like that, but a lot of people aren't getting that pat on the back. A lot of people are just going in day in, day out working so much and not getting any notice for it, and
Mr. PICKETT. I'm sorry. Go ahead and finish. I didn't mean to cut you off. Go right ahead and finish.
Airman CASSATA. I'm done.
Corporal ENGLISH. I joined for 4 years. That was it. There was nothere was no 20 for me. I knew before I even got in, and I didn't joinI didn't even know what a GI Bill was. I didn't know about GI or any other benefits. I joined to grow up, become one of the few and proud, and that isthat's why. All this education and all that stuff I could care less about.
Corporal WILLIAMS. I have to say I joined for pretty much the same reason. I wanted to be a Marine, you know, and I pickedI picked infantry. I didn't get stuck into that category. I picked the job I wanted. I wanted to be the guy out there with the gun running around. I mean, that was great, and I spent 2 years deployed doing that, and now that I've gotten married and I see the benefits and the housing for married, it's justit's not adequate. I mean, that would be the reason I would get out. It's notit's not
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Runrun that last sentence by me again. I missed that. I'm sorry.
Corporal WILLIAMS. Now that I've gotnow that I've gotten married and saw the pay and the housing for a marriedyou know, being a married corporal in the Marine Corps, that would be the reason I got out.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You need to get stationed in Hawaii in the new family housing we have out there.
Corporal WILLIAMS. Yeah, but I haven't had a bad taste of it considering I'm at Camp Lejeune, but the housingthe housing in Camp Lejeune and Jacksonville area is just not a good place to have a family, but it's notthere is not anything about the Marine Corps as far as that would be me getting out, anything I had to deal with in the Marine Corps. I mean, it's awesome, but justit's not there for the family. The benefits aren't there, and, I mean, you can't changebeing in a combat MOS where there is not very many people wanting to reenlist in that, you can't move to a different job. I mean, I'm still undecided whether I'm going to reenlist, but I'mit's geared me toward not reenlisting because I can't change jobs. I don't have a choice.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BUYER. One thing that is very clear to me is, the retention issue is multifaceted. So whether it's the benefitsand under the benefits, you have the pay inadequacies. You've got the retirement system. You've got the exchange and commissary, the medical question. You brought up the operations tempo, OPSTEMPO, whether it's your assignments, whether it's the length of hours, ask me to do more, and then the question is is it with less. So it leads into the question of adequate resourcing for you to have done your job and what you've seen over that period of time. I'm going to cover that with each of the panels. I want you to comment on that, and then that also leads in the final question of leadership impact, whether you thought you got the support that you needed in order to do your job, whether at the local level or you thought at the local level they were supported all the way up the chain of command.
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So my final question to you would be, then, on the resourcing, do you think that you got the adequate resources? Do you think you had what you need to do your job?
Corporal WILLIAMS. I would have to say that isit's not to do our job. It's going to get done. It doesn't matter what you give us, how much money you give us, how many resources you give us. If we're going toif we have to do something, we're going to get there one way or the other. That's justI guess that's just the Marines' mentality, we're going to get from point A to point B no matter what you give us, but when the job is done, I think we should have something to go on to.
Mr. BUYER. I guess I shouldI'm not going to pick on the Marine Corps. I should have asked the technicians. I make you happy when we give you a rifle and duct tape, extra duct tape.
Airman CASSATA. In maintenance it is crucial that you have test equipment that is accurate, that will test the equipment you're working on and so you know which equipment is bad. It's also very good to have the part in supply because if you don't, you're going to have to go can it from another plane. That plane has been sitting there for a month, and part after part being canned out of it. When you put that plane back together, it takes a while to get that plane back up to par, and if you had very good test equipment and a lot ofand a steady flow of parts, it wouldn't take that long to fix a plane. It wouldn't take long at all just to swap parts or something like that.
Also, witha lot of times you have modifications on the planes, where right now you have got the new mod on the C5s, and with the civilian contracts going through there, I'm glad someone else is doing it besides us because we don't have time to take care of it, but the resources, it's not enough for supplies and stuff like that, and parts.
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Mr. BUYER. What about the question on whether you felt confident you were being backed up by your command, senior NCO commanders, local commanders or even up the chain of command?
Airman CASSATA. Well, immediate supervision seems very lacking. Most of the seven levels, which are supervisors, are usually TDY and gone. I either rely on myself or have to jump the chain of command very highly to go and ask them for help and look to them for guidance in my career and stuff like that. I guess it really goes base to base on supervision, you know, because I know in Dover, the morale, it's really poor, the supervision. It really hurts us a lot.
Mr. BUYER. Anyone else care to comment?
Sergeant DEMBO. I can say something about supervision. Just in general I think supervision goes hand-in-hand with career counseling. There are a lot of men and women in today's Army, and an integral part about retaining peoplethis might even be a retention issue, is, you know, telling a person how they're doing, you know, everyevery quarter ornot every quarterthe Army states every quarter you should get together with yourthe person who will write your evaluation, but, you know, that feedback, you know, so that you know someone is watching you, someone is paying attention to you, providing you that career management.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Army has that. I think it could be better. I think it could be better in all the services. It actually might give you, the servicemen and women, more of a one-on-one feel and actually make themincrease their morale about their job. That might increase retention a little bit.
Mr. BUYER. The last question I have is on recruiting. In August I was in San Diego, prior to the Sixth Fleet deployment, and the sailors weren't really very happy, and that was the impression that I left San Diego with, and when we were discussing the retention issues and recruiting, what struck me was that the recruiters aren't just the ones who are assigned out there in these jobs. All of you are recruiters. Everyone in the military is a recruiter. Everyone that gets out of the service is a recruiter. So those of you who are about to leave the service and you go back home, whether you realize it or not, you are also a recruiter. So my question to you is, what is yourgoing to be your advice when you go back to your communities? Is it going to bedo you give your advice to someone who is a senior in high school to go into the service? Was it a worthwhile experience, or are you going to say don't join the service right now because?
Petty Officer PIECUCH. I think it's a worthwhile experience. I joined for 6 years, and I do not regret a single day, the experiences I've had, and that's what I would tell a senior in high school. The experiences I've had and the life I've seen for the past five-and-a-half years have been great. Now, it's been tough at times being pulled away from family and the financial stability. It's been rough, but just to get a chance to change your life and to see the world and to actually learn a useful skill, like I learned electronics, right there, that alone is just great. That's what I would tell them.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Petty Officer FARRELL. I agree. I've had a lot of fun in the Navy, and I'm going to go back and I'll talk it up. I think the Navy was a great thing for me. It wasbut I'm going to tell them the truth. As far as my recruiter, he told me all kinds of fallacy. He was telling me all kinds of great things. He told me I could live out on town, you know, and that's not true. When you're an E4, you live on the ship. You have to let these people know. I didn't know I was going to go live on a ship for 3 years. I didn't know a lot of things. They told me a lot of different things that wasn't whatI'm going to tell people the truth, exactly how it is and what it's like, and if you're ready to do it, you go for it. I mean, I had a lot of fun, so I'm going to talk it up.
Airman CASSATA. The Internet, you get a lot of people coming up and talking with you. I put in my profile that I'm in the Air Force, and seniors in high school, you know, send me a message and say what do you think about the Air Force, should I join, you know, what do you do, is my recruiter telling me the truth? And I try to tell them as best I can the truth, yes, I did love my service in the Air Force. All the training that I got was unbelievable. The people that I met, it was great. I mean, to do things like this, it's really interesting, and I just have to warn them as well, you got to know what you're getting yourself into. Research everything, andbut know that it isI sayI tell them join. Experience it.
Mr. BUYER. Before I excuse the first panel, do any of my colleagues have any follow-up questions?
Mr. HAYES. Airman Cassata, you had some good points when we talked about the draft, that you're really uncomfortable about serving with somebody that doesn't want to be there. However, it concerns me that as the volunteer force moves forward, unless this panel, which certainly has the ability to solve and correct all these problems, but if we don't get it done quickly, then it's going to be harder and harder to recruit people.
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Now, when I came along, I got drafted. I didn't think of that as a bad thing in any way, shape, or form, and let me tell you a quick story. My son is about your age. He was going to the Air Force Academy and wanted to fly fighters. He blew out his knee the weekend before he was to go and had other medical problems so he didn't get to do that. So he didn't serve. It wasn't his fault, but he was at Fort Bragg with me last week, and he came away from watching those young men and women jump out of those airplanes, operate that equipment. I mean, he was fired up about the military. Whether he was negative before, he came away with such an incredible impression.
The comment he made that I think is very important, like you others who are going to be on the panel, he said you all have become too good at what you do. You don't have a visible enemy, but on the same side of the page, we have deployed more times in the last 7 years than we did in the previous 40, so no one can tell us that the world is a safer place.
How do we kind of straighten this story out and communicate to those young people who have the opportunity but are looking beyond what you all have experienced and related to us today? You've become too good. They think that you all can go fight and win and beat anybody and not lose a single life. The preparation, training has been helpful, but we all know that as we extend that rubber band, we're getting away from that. So I wish you would just think about that. I don't know if we have time for another comment, but how do we increase the opportunity for young people to experience what you have related to us in large measure?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. That, in fact, is our goal. Let me thank each of you for your service to country and for your honor and patriotism.
Petty Officer PIECUCH. Mr. Chairman, I just have one comment I would like to make, if I could. I'm from Illinois. Unless Illinois and Indiana get in a war, IllinoisI went home for Christmas, and there is no media there about the military. The Congressmen from Illinois that representthe Senators, they really don't push it that much.
One of the things about recruiting is, maybe you gentlemen can go back to your districts and talk about it, tell people about it to try to get the media involved with it, something along those lines, because a lot of people I know back home know nothing about the Navy. They just know they go out on boats and sail around for a couple days. So Ibut what we need, too, is to help get some support from civilian officials, more than just from us. That's what I say.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Abercrombie.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You've been very impressive today. I appreciate youryour commentary and your analysis, and I just wanted to just get a generalgeneral impression here. I got the feeling from much of what was said up and down the line here that a good deal of what would give you the satisfaction and the incentive to stay in is if you were given the tools to do your jobs as well, that you knew that you were going to have it. Have I got that correct? Like you say, the equipment and the maintenance. You made a big impression on me thatthat part of this is pay, yes, part of this is benefits, yes, but another part of it is are you being able to do your job the way you're supposed to, are we funding equipment, funding the maintenance, funding the proper supervision and so on?
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Airman CASSATA. Slowly we are getting better tools, but a lot of it just isn't the tools. At Dover we supply our own movers, tote around the little stands and stuff like that, and the truck that we use to push and pull those stands, you have to wear hearing protection to be in there because of how loud the engine is. It's unbelievable.
Then the brakes on a lot of those trucks will slam onwhen you just tap them, it will slam on the brakes and everyone in the whole bus is going to fall forward, soincluding the equipment.
A lot of times I have to turn in my headsets because they have wires showing. The mike isn't working, and the headset is my key tool to figuring out what the problem is.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So it's not just the question of pay, it's a question of allowing you to exercise the abilities and capacities that you have to do the job that you know you can do?
Airman CASSATA. Quality of the work setting.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you very much, and for the other panels, hopefully you were paying close attention to this last question because Mr. Abercrombie and I both do not believe that we can solve the retention problem in the military by just throwing money at this problem. It's much more complex, much more diverse than just that. So we anticipate some of the testimony getting into the job sector too. Thank you so very much for your testimony here today. We appreciate your service to country.
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The next panel, if you'll please come forward.
On the second panel, I'll introduce them, and we'll also have response statements from each.
We have Staff Sgt. Erin O'Hara.
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. That's Erin.
Mr. BUYER. I'm sorry. What did I say? ErinI apologizeO'Hara of the United States Army; Staff Sgt. Robert Picco of the United States Army, Petty Officer First Class Michael Tate, United States Navy; Petty Officer First Class Daniel Spencer, United States Navy. We'll have Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Jackson, United States Air Force; Staff Sgt. Gary Duszak.
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. Yes, that's correct.
Mr. BUYER. United States Air Force, Staff Sgt. Kristi Carter, United States Marine Corps, and Sgt. Zachary Bower of the United States Marine Corps. Thank you.
Sergeant O'Hara, you may begin.
STATEMENT OF STAFF SGT. ERIN O'HARA, UNITED STATES ARMY
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Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Good morning, and thank you for allowing me to be here. I'm Staff Sgt. Erin Kathleen O'Hara. I'm currently assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, Core Support Company, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I'm a 96 Bravo Intelligence Analyst. I'm been in for eight-and-a-half years, and I'm married to another service member.
My father is retired military. He's retired Marine Corps, 22 years, and so I grew up as a military brat, traveled all over the world, and I really, really love the military life style, and I love my job. I really enjoy the intel field. However, right now I'm on the fence about staying in. I have 2 years left in my enlistment, and things that are bothering me right now are the ever- increasing OPSTEMPO that we have, combined with our eroding benefits. I find for myself and for my soldiers, it's very demoralizing, and it takes away all the pride and meaning that serving in the military has for me.
Mr. BUYER. How long have you been in?
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Eight and-a-half years, sir.
Mr. BUYER. Let us know how long all of you have been in.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF STAFF SGT. ROBERT PICCO, UNITED STATES ARMY
Staff Sergeant PICCO. Good morning. I'm Sgt. Robert Picco. I'm a military policeman with 8 years of service. Currently I'm stationed at Fort Monroe, Virginia. I'll be leaving the service in July. I really enjoyed my time with the military, but there are really several factors that are kind of making me want to get out of the military, the least not being pay, the benefits, which we have heard about already, but I'm preparing to start a family soon, and I don't believe that the military is conducive to that. There is no stability. I've been in 8 years, moved four times in those 8 years. So it's pretty rough familywise.
Also, I plan on pursuing a career as a law enforcement officer, and I cannotonce I turn 37, I'm not eligible for two-thirds of the Federal law enforcement officer jobs out there. So even if I wanted to stay in for 20 years, I would have to give it up. I would have to make this decision sooner or later. I'm happy to be here. I'm looking forward to it.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Tate.
STATEMENT OF PETTY OFFICER FIRST CLASS MICHAEL TATE, UNITED STATES NAVY
Petty Officer TATE. Good morning. I'm Petty Officer Michael Tate. I'm a nuclear trained machinist's mate. I'm assigned to the USS Montpelier attack submarine. I've been in the Navy 11a little over 11 years, and I'll be getting out probably within 6 months.
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The reasons I'm considering doing that is, with the economy being as good as it is right now, it's hard for me to spend 6-month deployments and every fourth night on a submarine throughout the year maybe 50 or 60 percent of the time when I can make more money and I can be home with my family. So it's a tough decision to make to make all those sacrifices and to make less money when I'm keeping in touch with people who have the same skills as I have in the Navy and who have left two or 3 years ago and have surpassed me in earnings. I feel like I'm losing out by staying in, basically.
Mr. BUYER. Petty Officer Spencer.
STATEMENT OF PETTY OFFICER FIRST CLASS DANIEL SPENCER, UNITED STATES NAVY
Petty Officer SPENCER. Good morning. I'm Operations Specialist, First Class, Daniel Wesley Spencer. I'm from Oklahoma. I am currently stationed on board the USS Kaufman (FFG 59), home based here in Norfolk. I have 14 years of naval service. I'm an operations specialist, as I said earlier. It's kind of a high tech job. I'm currently the only air intercept controller on board, and that's my specialty on board. I also provide tactical information for the Commanding Officer [CO] to make a sound operational decision.
I'm married, with three children, 14, 13 and 9, a boy being the senior, and two girls. I'm a careerist. I'm staying in the military. I enjoy the military organization and the discipline thatthat it demands, and has.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some of the things that I'll address in the issues that I'll put before you today are just things that make it better. I don't have any major complaints about our military, but there are areas, as in pay and other areas, that we can definitely make better to encourage retention.
My biggest problem right now is our quality of people. It seems like it's degraded, and it starts in boot camp and goes on through the A schools because we have a requirement for people out in the fleet that they're pushing them through the boot camps and they're pushing them through the A schools to get them to the fleet, and what is happening is, we're having problems with these people that are just getting pushed through. So it takes away from our time for training and other important issues that we can be focusing on to discipline some of the quality of people that we have coming in. I recommend that we balance quantity and quality things and that issue. That's my primary issue.
Mr. BUYER. Sergeant Jackson.
STATEMENT OF STAFF SGT. JEFFREY JACKSON, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. Good morning. I'm Sergeant Jackson. I'm originally from Pennsylvania. I joined the Air Force about 11 years ago. I'm married. I have two children. About 6 months ago I came up on the decision to reenlist, and it was a tough decision. I chose to get out and possibly still have the option to reenlist at the last second. I went ahead, pursued the civilian job market. I was able to findI got three job offers. They werea couple of them were probably about 25 percent more than what I'm making now.
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The main things that really made me stay inI've currently extended for 18 monthsis the recent changes in retirement and the pay increases. Sometimes it's hard to make it by with two children on a staff sergeant's pay. A lot more money would really benefit me, or, excuse me, the currentthe current pay raises would seem admirable to me.
Mr. BUYER. What are the ages of your children?
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. Eight and two.
Mr. BUYER. Does your wife work outside the home?
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. She's been in a unique situation. She'sshe got her education while we were in so she's been working part time and going back to school and whatnot. So that's been kind of like aI guess a financial burden, too, at times, and what you spoke about on the first panel sounds like a good plan. I guess we'll get into that later.
STATEMENT OF STAFF SGT. GARY DUSZAK, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I'm Staff Sergeant Duszak, stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Thank you for this opportunity.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I've been in the Air Force now for right at 8 years, and I've been married for seven of those 8 years to my wife, Wendy. We have two children together. I have a daughter that's 4 years old and I have a son that will be three in just a few days.
I work as an air traffic controllera radar approach controllerat Laughlin Air Force Base, which is the third busiest airfield in the Air Force. It is my intention to separate from the Air Force this upcoming July after completion of my second enlistment. My first reasoning has to do with the retirement pension that is offered. I had a supervisor that retired after 20 years of dedicated service in the Air Force, and when I saw the amount he received on his pension, it wasn't the most encouraging, and after that I don't even fall under this 50 percent program.
After discussing this at length with my wife, we have determined that we feel that we need something a little bit more as far as the pension program goes to make usthat would encourage us in staying, which I'll get to later in my statement.
And my final reason has to do with the high OPSTEMPO level and the low manning levels not only at the facility I work with but in my career field as a whole and how this has affected the job I do. Five years ago military members were being paid to get out under Voluntary Separation Iniative [VSI] and Special Separation Benefit [SSB] in order to meet reduction demands in the Armed Forces. Today the manning of my career field, my facility and my career field has a huge impact on the way we provide service not only to our customers but it also adds additional work load on everybody that I work with.
My job as an air traffic controller, it involves a lot of responsibility and stress alone. Now, when you add thethe manpower shortage and the OPSTEMPO, with deployments to Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, and Hungary, we have doubled the workload from when I first came in.
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To give you an example, I used to work in a tower at a different place. I came here as aas a five level, but I had to learn my job all over because I'm a radar approach controller. From the timesince I first got to my base now, we are running more than double the sorties that we were when I first got here, and their controller staff has declined to about half that.
To give you another example, it takes approximately 15 controllers to operate where I work at right now, and we can man maybe nine to ten positions. We had to get waivers to do our job, basically to combine our positions. So in my eyes it's more of a work load and a safety concern that I'm dealing with here also.
Also, I can't even count on planning leave, a family vacation with my family, right now. There is no way I can plan on anything like that and expect to get my leave, and that's hugely demoralizing not only for me but everybody I work with, and we're all having a hard time dealing with this.
I'm choosing to turn down a reenlistment bonus. That comes out to about $45,000 over a 6-year period, and I'm having problems with this, too, because I don't think it's a fair issue. It was just recently activated due to the critical nature of my career field, and we have personnel that I'm working with now that maybe reenlisted 6 months ago or a year or what have you and these people also are ineligible, and I have a problem with fairness and equality with this, working with the same people, doing the same job and them not being able to get what I get also, and I just have a problem with that.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In closing, if you were going to ask me what could be done to change my perspective about getting out, I'd tell you I give a hundred percent day in and day out. I work 6 days a week, and this is everybody I work with. Competitive pay that remains consistent to achieve an adequate living standard for my family, restore the retirement benefits back to the original design or what we talked about today in the first panel, the TSP, and finally, consistency in the quality for members in critical career fields such as mine so they can utilize such things as leave and be able to take that with their family, and that's all I have. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. I do have one question for you. What would be the equivalency in pay for an air traffic controller working at Norfolk International Airport?
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. I can tell you that if I were to get out now, with the experience I have, I would have no problem finding a job, if I did get hired out, at least starting off in the mid-45s [$45,000], at least, and that's the experience that I have right now and that I'm aware of, and depending on if I get hired on by a center or something like that, I could be making upwards of 75, 85.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF STAFF SGT. KRISTI CARTER, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Good morning, gentlemen. My name is Staff Sergeant Carter, and until recently I was planning on getting out. I am a single parent. I've been in the Marine Corps for 10 years and 5 months, and I'm assigned to the Joint Law Center at Cherry Point. I am a legal service specialist.
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The reasons why I was planning on getting out is, like I said, I'm a single parent, and the job opportunities out there for paralegals are amazing, and right now with the economy so good, my intent was to get out to better raise my daughter in an environment that she deserves.
I joined the Marine Corps for the pride and the challenge and because in my heart of hearts I love the Marine Corps, but being a parent, your priorities have to change, and you don't have a choice. Although I have decided to stay in-I have been asked to become an instructor down at the paralegal courses at Camp Lejeune-which I think is an awesome opportunity, and I'm going to go ahead and stay in and just do what I can for my daughter.
Another reason I wanted to get out is, I feel the leadership in the Marine Corps has begun to change, and a lot of it is because society isn't what it used to be, and I feel that we're lowering our standards to allow the society of today into the military, and I think that is wrong. Personally, I feel that the military should help change society instead of allowing society to change the military.
Mr. BUYER. You did reenlist?
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Sir, I have not reenlisted. I am scheduled to reenlist in March.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Bower.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF SGT. ZACHARY BOWER, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Sergeant BOWER. Good morning, gentlemen. My name is Sergeant Zachary Bower. I'm from Blue Ridge, Virginia. I've been in the Marine Corps for eight-and-a-half years, and I am currently stationed with the Fleet Antiterrorist Security Team here in Norfolk. I am currently undecided about whether I'm going to stay in or reenlist.
A lot of issues I have are the same things you've heard all morning, the pay and the retirement, and Staff Sergeant Carter brought up a good point about the quality of personnel that's being allowed into the military these days. I totally have to agree with her on, the individuals that we're getting here have changed so much since I came in eight-and-a-half years ago that it's starting toit's really starting to be bothersome to some of the people that have been around for a long time, and slowly but surely they'll get weeded out eventually, but the quality of lifeI mean, I got Marines sitting in the barracks right now that the water don't even work half the time, and they have dropped money into the barracks to try to fix it, but it's a nuisance, and, you know, half the time the water don't work and the sinks back up and this, that and the other thing. Stuff like that is just demoralizing to the Marines themselves, and that's all I have.
Mr. BUYER. I have a comment I would like to make to all of you, since several of you brought this question up about the standards. There iswith the high competition in the workplace today, you have some places across the country where you may have a particular county that is now down into 1.8 percent unemployment or 2 percent or even 3 percent. What is happening out there in the competition in the workplace is, now you're tappingthe workplace is now discovering new problems, and that isespecially with our welfare reform that Congress has done in moving people into work, is that there is a literacy problem.
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Now, the good thing about it from a societal standpointand I'll get off my stump here in a secondis that these people areare having the opportunities to develop themselves and make themselves better, which means we all have increased responsibilities. So when I was at the recruiting station at Great Lakes, for example, and I brought up the question about lowering quality, the lower quality of a recruit that is coming in and then being a good listener to those who are in the fleet complaining about the products they were receiving, the response from the recruiting station isor at Great Lakes is that, well, they're upset because they have to do more polishing than ever before, and you two brought that up. So let me throw it right back at you. I think it probably is in fact true, but helphelp the committee understand that a little bit better. Is it really more polishing or is it that much more time? I mean, who
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Sir, I was a drill instructor for 2 years. I just got off the drill field 2 years ago, and so I'm withI understand what the recruiters are talking about. The recruiters don't have a choice about what they bring in because if they don't meet quota, they're going to get kicked out. They're going to get bad paper. I put no blame on the recruiters because they don't have a choice. All they care about is numbers.
When we get the recruits, our hands are tied as well. We have to graduate the best quality we can graduate, but even us, as drill instructors and senior drill instructors, sometimes we don't have a choice. Sometimes it's impossible to get these people that are trying to bring Marinesother service members that don't even havedo not even deservedo not even rate to earn the title. We don't have a choice but to graduate these service members.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. But you do have not only just the choice but you have the opportunity to develop these individuals in leadership positions?
Staff Sergeant CARTER. That's where we're getting to the minimum standards. We only graduate those that meet the standards. As long as they meet the minimum standards, then we have to graduate them. We don't have a choice, and perhaps we need to raise our standards. That'sI know probably the majority of the Marine Corps, and possibly other services, are going to agree with that. Our standards are too low.
Mr. BUYER. We're in a very important question area because it goes immediately to what size of force do in fact we need, right? So if they're saying, well, if we want to maintain the force we presently have, in order to do that we'll just lower quality standards, but when you lower quality standards, then you begin to frustratefrustrate some of you that are saying, yeah, I know how to polish somebody off, but with this one, my, this stone is too rough.
Staff Sergeant CARTER. That's right, sir. We've been toned down so much. By all means, I'm not saying we should go back to the old ways where we beat recruits or the other things that we used
Mr. BUYER. You're being tactful with me. Tell me, what does that mean?
Staff Sergeant CARTER. OK. There used to be certain ways of disciplining service members, of getting themof teaching them how they need to be, of where they need to be, how they need to become potential leaders. There used to be ways that we did that that we are no longer allowed to do, and I'm not talking about physical abuse. I am just talkingI can't evenif a Marine messes up, if a Marine is unauthorized absence [UA], I can't tell him to do 20 pushups anymore because that's hazing, and I don't understand that.
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The only way that we're allowed to punishthis is another issue. We're not allowed to takeour whole thing of being a Marine is, we used to take care of Marines, take care of each other. Instead of paperwork and this and that, we took care of each other one-on-one. If you got into trouble, you helped each other out, and in my eyes that doesn't seem to be happening like that anymore because now nothing is more powerful than the pen, and that's why you're losing a lot of your senior Marines, because that's not how it used to be.
We used to beas staff NCOs, we used to be able to take care of our own, take them aside, counsel them, domake them do a little what we call extra military instruction. If they were late, you make them stay an hour late. Now they write a letter to their Congressman, no offense, and we're in trouble, and I'm sorry, but that's not right.
Mr. BUYER. It's that kindlier, gentler, softer approach, don't squeeze the Charmin in your house.
Staff Sergeant CARTER. As a drill instructor, sir, you're basically walking on eggshells, and it's sad that it has to be like that.
Mr. BUYER. The committee has taken that issue on squarely, and the services are listening, and we in fact lengthened basic training and the Navy got rid of the blue cards and that type of stuff, but it still requires attention, based upon what I'm hearing.
Petty Officer Spencer.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Petty Officer SPENCER. In reference to what you were saying, that it's partially correct that we perhaps may have to do more polishing, but that's eachthat's every member's responsibility initiallyinitially anyway. The purpose of the boot camps, I would assume, would be to provide a foundation. If we cushion them in boot campwhat we're getting to the fleet, we don't mind polishing them. Ideally I believe boot camp is the foundation, the initiation or whatever you want to call it. That's when you break and mold the soldiers. You break them down and build them so that we canyou can send to the fleet a more disciplined and perhaps more motivated sailor to the fleet.
The A schools are to educate them. When they get to the fleet, it's to implement the training from those other two commands, but the problems that we're getting to the fleet now is a lack of respect for authority. I don't know if you want to contribute that to the ''X'' generation or whatever, but this is what we're getting to the fleet.
Polishing these guys up is not our problem. What is happening is, we'requality people createif you have quality people, that reduces the work load, but if you're bringing in these three guys that don't want to be there and then you tell them to do a job, one, you have to go back and check that job. Two, you have to go back and redo that job. We just burn more man hours doing that.
Polishing the guys up, the disciplinary tactics that we use is not a primary problem. It's the fact that now we're spending time counseling these guys. We're spending time taking these guys to mast and then they claim we have to go through legal. We have to take our guys and escort them to legal. We're spending a lot of time now.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My commanding officer had told me he has to come in at 3 a.m. in the morning to do his Navy work from 3 a.m. to about 8 a.m.. He said from there on it's people issues that he has to deal with, because of the quality of people that we're bringing in. I agree with that. I think thatI instructed out at Dam Neck, at the A school out there, and there was a screening that was required prior to going to instructor school, but we had a high quality of people out there at Dam Neck because people, one, wanted to be out there, they wanted to instruct and, two, they went through a screening process which allowed that we could weed out we don't want this guy instructing out here at Dam Neck, you know, for these guys that are just coming in because that may set a bad example. We used the screening process. Perhaps we could implement that screening process at the boot camp level, if not at the recruiting level, or perhaps instead of the VSI or SSB, we couldjust like supply and demand, we could balance quality and quantity. When we need people, then we have to, unfortunately, reduce the quality to get the people in. When we don't need people, let's not put the good people that we have out and offer them an out. Let's drive up the quality. When we drive up the quality, the quantity goes down. Then we get the quality, the better people coming in.
Mr. BUYER. So respond to the Navy reducing standards. Your Navy is proposing to reduce standards to bring them in. You're telling me we should increase the standards.
Petty Officer SPENCER. I don't agree with reducing the standards. If we're at a time now that we're highly in demand, which unfortunately we are out at sea, then you're going to have to give one to get the other. If we're at a point now of drivingdriving toward quantity, unfortunately, we have to reduce the quality, but once we get to the level where they're balanced, we don'tI don't recommend we go out and open up the VSIs and VVIs and allow the good guys to leave. I recommend that once we get balance and we get the people we need and weed out the people that we don't need, then we start balancing with quality versus quantity and we start saying we're going to raise our standards when we start getting enough people in.
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Mr. BUYER. Mr. Hayes, do you have a question based on my question?
Mr. HAYES. I think I'm hearing you all saying, and I agree, that political correctness has driven us over the cliff in our attempt to man the military.
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Absolutely.
Mr. BUYER. Well, I'm going to yield now to Mr. Abercrombie. I appreciate my colleagues' indulgence here. The reason we have a mid-career service member panel is that, yes, we'll get into the pay and the benefit questions and, I don't want to be redundant, but you've elected to come this far in your career, and we want to understand what are the other challenges out there, now as a professional within your job what is frustrating you about whether you maintain the level of professionalism that you want or are saying I can't do this anymore, I'm leaving. So I appreciate the indulgence.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Petty Officer Tate, I'm interested in your work on a submarine. What is it that you're doing on a submarine?
Petty Officer TATE. Sir, I'm a nuclear machinist's mate. I work in the engineering department. I'm an engine room supervisor.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That's not something that you pick up overnight, is it?
Petty Officer TATE. No, sir. It took a long time and a lot of training for me to be able to do.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You're deployed for various lengths of time. What is the shortest length of time?
Petty Officer TATE. Shortest length of time I've been deployed is 82 days.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. And the longest?
Petty Officer TATE. Five months.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Your childrendo you have children or a child?
Petty Officer TATE. Yes, sir. I have one child.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. How old?
Petty Officer TATE. Eight years old.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So just about the same length of time you've been in the service, right?
Petty Officer TATE. Almost.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Tell me again, so that I understand completely, the reasoning that you're going through right now or the process of the reasoning, if you don't mind sharing with me, and with the members. It's very, very important to us.
By the way, I want to reiterate to all of you that what you're sharing with us today is very, very important, and your commentary may help a great many people, including your colleagues. So please don't think I'm trying to pry so much as I'm trying to get an understanding, and I am zeroing in on you because of themy perception that your qualifications and your abilities are vital to theto the service, to the Navy, and that if you leave, then would it be fair to say that the Navy is going to suffer a loss by not having you and your abilities available, right?
Petty Officer TATE. Right.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. What kind of an offer can you get outside with the skills that you have right now?
Petty Officer TATE. I may, from some estimates, even take a little bit of a pay cut if I leave the military. I don't do too bad, but over a couple of years I should be able to make anywhere around probably $50,000 to $60,000 if you consider I make probably around $40,000 right now in the specialty that I'm in. I may break even when I get out or I may start at $10,000 to $20,000 more a year, from what I'm looking at.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I made a note to myself, excuse me, about loss of income, and can you run that by me, whatif you had to pick today and come up with a rationale or give a reason for separating, what would that be? What would you say in a couple of sentences?
Petty Officer TATE. Besides the money, I've been an E6 for 6 years, and I've worked very diligently toward advancement.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you.
Petty Officer TATE. I've been an E6 for the past 6 years, and I worked really hard over these past years trying to make rank, and because of the drawdown from a few years ago, my specialty or in my rating, it's very hard to advance. So I've been spinning my wheels, I feel like, working very hard trying to maintain this perfect record with no advancement, with no pay raise, with no increase in the quality of life for me and my family.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Let me interrupt you there. Are you aware that we're trying toone of the things that the chairman and the committee is trying to come to grips with is trying to getI won't use the word ''balance,'' but flexibility is probably closer to it between promotion based on merit as well as promotion based on time and some of the other elements that have been associated with promotion right now, how many slots are available, drawdown causing constriction of availability of promotional slots, et cetera?
What iffirst of all, let me ask you, are you aware this is one of the proposals, that part of the pay and benefits in this whole question about retention is that we give much more flexibility with respect to promotion? So it's not just a question of sticking around but also a question of the kind of job you're doing, the quality of job you're doing and the requirements of specific jobs, particularly where these jobs are kind of highly specialized and there aren't a whole lot of them. Are you aware that we're trying to do that?
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Petty Officer TATE. Yes, I am.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Would that make a difference if we came up with a package where there was a lot more flexibility in being able to promote, regardless of how many slots were available mathematically?
Petty Officer TATE. I think that it would make a very large difference for people in the specialized fields where they're locked up in the same rank for years on end. I think it would make a very large impact.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Is it the case now that for all intents and purposes no matter how good you are you may find yourself locked intoas you put it, locked into the same rank with somebody who is just putting in time? I'm not saying that your colleagues are just putting in time and nobody is doing a better job than others, but isn't it akind of the case now that if you just go along and get the time through and don't get into trouble you can end up in the same position as somebody who is doing a superior job
Petty Officer TATE. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE [continuing]. With respect to the question of promotion?
Petty Officer TATE. It goes with the saying, it pays to work hard in the Navy, and if you don't, it pays the same. That's pretty muchpretty much how it really and truly is.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Part of this could be by default, not by design, right? It's not the Navy wants it that way, but that's the way it's working because of the constrictions that are placed on you or on your superiors?
Petty Officer TATE. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Because of the existing policies?
Petty Officer TATE. (Nodding.)
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You're nodding your head, Petty Officer Spencer. Do you agree with that?
Petty Officer SPENCER. Yes, sir, very much so.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Do you have a comment along that line?
Petty Officer SPENCER. Yes, sir. One of the problems in ourcurrently in the service today, or at least in the Navy, is that we have people that are buying time, people that the first comment they have at the beginning of the day is what time are we leaving today. It makes it hard for the guy that he's, I guess, receiving the same pay to fully exert himself daily, and this other guy, they're receiving the same pay.
You had mentioned something about a system wheredid you say that you're trying to implement a system where your advance or pay is based on merit?
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Part of what the committee is discussing and the chairman is trying to promote is a discussion about can wecan we get, particularly in the mid levels, a system whereby there is a lot more flexibility with regard to promotion so that it just doesn't come down to sticking around and/or gee, there is no room for us to make promotions because the drawdown has limited the number of slots that we have available.
Petty Officer SPENCER. I think a program of that nature is going to do two things. It's goingit's going to reward the harder worker and it's going to promote the harder worker, which is going to fall back to quality people. You're going to have quality chiefs. You're going to have quality first class. You're going to have quality senior chiefs instead of the guy that's buying time. Quality reduces the work load. If you got quality in there, you don't need three guys to do a job if you got two guys that are top-of-the-line performers that are doing the job. So it's not really a question of quantity. If you have quality people in there, you would be killing two birds with one stone with a program like that.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. One otherthank you very much. That's very valuable information.
I have one other question and anybody can answer it. This has to do with the question of families. Just by way of a very brief background to what I'm talking about, I had the singular good fortunate to know James Jones, the author of From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line. Unfortunately, he's not with us now, but he was a private at Schofield Barracks on December 7th, 1941, a teenage soldier at that time in the Army, obviously, at Schofield. The world of From Here to Eternity, the world of the military in 1941, is a lot different than the world is going to be in 2001, particularly with the idea that he was a single soldier and there is families now.
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Now, Sergeant Picco, you're still a single soldier, right?
Staff Sergeant PICCO. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. But that is going to change, if I understood you correctly, right?
Staff Sergeant PICCO. Yes.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So is it not the case, then, that you now have families in the majority, and that even if people come in single and they're going to stay, the chances are they're not going to stay single, that they're going to get married and have kids? My question to you then is, are you satisfied with the educational atmosphere for the children, that youyou have, Sergeant, a child now, or the children of those who you know have families? Is that educational situation good? Is the family situation good? Are the child development centers there? If you are being deployed, are you confident that the remaining spouse isis in good shape with respect to being able to take care of children? Is this a factor? Is the deployment factor, the stress of deployment more of a factor now because of the family situation? It may seem kind of obvious, but I'm talking about the actual legitimates of dealing with the family in the military now. Anybody can answer.
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Sir, I would like to comment on that, if I could, please. I kind of have a different twist to that. I'm married to another service member, and we don't have any children. On my last assignment I got chosen twice to go on deployment almost strictly for the fact that I didn't have children, and I find that sometimes you end up carrying a little bit more of the load to make it a little bit easier for those who do have families.
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I know there are people that have families that deploy, but for those of us who don't, who chose not to have children, it's like a double-edged sword sometimes, you know. We get picked a lot more for deployment. We get a lot harder assignments, and they rely on us a little more because they know that I can stay until 1800, 1900 at night doing work because I don't have anybody to go get at day-care or anything like that. It's really tough for me personally, and that's all I would have to say.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. That's a good point, and I'm glad you made it, but could you comment as well before I ask the others, what about family housing? We heardyou probably heard the folks on the first panel. There was some question by at least a couple of people that the housing was substandard. There wasn't too much made of the question of what is available for the kids and so on. Would you have a comment on that, even an observation? It doesn't have to be personal with you but observation of others in your command?
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Well, unfortunately, the problem with housing is, there is not enough of it anywhere. Anywhere you go, you're guaranteed to live off post for a certain period of time, which can be anywhere from 4 months up to a year, and that creates a hardship in itself because then when it does come time to move on post, sometimes at that point the service member has deployed and the family member is left to do it themselves, and in the case where I was just stationed, the town is actually 35 miles away from the post. So living downtown takes on a whole new concept when you're commuting a long distance every day, and, you know, it gets to that point where you're getting up early, at 5 in the morning, 4 in the morning, and you don't see your house until 1800, 1900 at night.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Abercrombie.
Mr. HAYES. Better not go there yet. I'll pass.
Mr. BUYER. All right. Mr. Larson.
Mr. LARSON. Let me follow up on Mr. Abercrombie's line of questioning, and that's, again, how many of you have children? What kind of development programs are offered for those kids, if I may? We'll start with you, Sergeant.
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Thank you. I am Staff Sergeant Carter, by the way. I have a 5-year-old daughter, and she hasn't started kindergarten. She'll start kindergarten next year, but as for Cherry Point, I think that they have a pretty good day-care program, but I do believe one of the problems is, they have a 10-hour rule. You are not allowed to have your child there for longer than 10 hours. Well, for a civilian that's fine, but for those of us in the service, 10-hour days are few and far between, and theythey require a letter from your commanding officer every time you're 5 minutes late, and that's justI'm sorry. They need to be a little bit more lenient with that, and I actually ended up taking my daughter out of the base day-care, for one, for that reason, and for another, I was talking to some of the teachers at the day-care. They are not allowed to teach the children anything. Granted, it's a day-care and you can't teach them that much, but you can helphelp us parents, especially us single parents, get a basis, you know, alphabet and that kind of thing. They're not even allowed to do that. All they do is sit and draw pictures and play outside all day and try and help with the manners.
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My understanding is, they're not allowed to teach them because if theythey don't have the right certifications and they don't get paid enough. They would have to pay them more for them to teach the children something, and that is the main reason why I took my daughter off of the base day-care program.
Mr. LARSON. Do you have her in another child care program?
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Yes, sir. She'sshe's off base in a child care program. Also, I don't want to getfor my personal reasons, I don't really want to get into the money issue, but I am on government assistance for day-care because I'm a staff sergeant, 10-year staff sergeant, and I don't make enough to keep my daughter in day-care. So I have Department of Social Services [DSS] supporting me, which I don't like at all.
Mr. LARSON. I'll have to have you come and visit the U.S. Senate and see the kind of child care that they have, and I think it's the kind of child care that everybody in the country should have, and especially our people that are serving this country on a regular basis.
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. Yes, sir. I have two children, and my one daughter attendsshe attends a 3-day preschool there, and in addition, every once in a while we'll take our children in there when my wife has work. We'll call in, and usually there is like a standby thing. You call in, and if they have room, they'll take the kids, but basically there is no problem, and if I can add to that, Laughlin has a program that's called Give Parents a Break. I don't know if it's something every base has or not, but every 2 weeks if you qualify for thisbasically I guess it has to do with your grade and the money that you makeyou can go ahead and sign your kids up in advance for this, and they'll go ahead andI think it's like for a period of 5 hours where they'll watch your kids, and it gives the parents a break basically, but other than that, I've had no problems. Everything has been great.
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Mr. LARSON. Is it safe to say that as parents that if you knew that your children were getting safe, affordable, quality child/educare that that would serve as a real retention factor and clearly as a real peace of mind, whether you're out for 8 months or whether your position requires you to be there longer than 10 hours a day?
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Sir, I was talking to a couple of theof the dependent wives back at Cherry Point, too, and they brought uptheyI know my lance corporal, his wife never finished high school. She dropped out when she was a sophomore and doesn't even have a GED or anything, and I think that's a problem a lot with especially the E1s through E3s. Perhaps they could maybe offer an education program for the dependents or maybe if you have to sign a contract that you're in an education program and then you can get free day-care or a low day-care rate if they're seeking education to finishto help them out or a job or some opportunity because I know a lot of the E1s through E3s, their wives don't have a choice but to stay home because theythey don't make enough money to send their kids to day-care, and then they end up with a spouse that has no education and no job opportunities either.
Mr. LARSON. Yes, sir.
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. I traded into thethe closest Navy base because I live closer to a Navy base than the Air Force base. One thing I found that was kind of unique, I was like, I think, No. 1 on the waiting list for like a year or so, and what I was running into, it was certain criteria as far assay I was No. 1, but if like a single parent or something came up, I kept getting bumped down, or military to military had more priorities. So finally we just went on the economy, which was considerably more expensive, but then again, I can understand the needs, but it wasI just thought I waited too long.
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Mr. LARSON. Anyone else want to comment?
Mr. Chairman, would it be OK to ask another question?
Mr. BUYER. Sure.
Mr. LARSON. My question goes directly to Officer Tate again, and primarily because we have a sub base in Groton, Connecticut, but one of the concerns, and something that was highlighted on a ''60 Minutes'' report in a rather negative fashion, was what happens with respect to quality of life, and I'm talking here specifically about spousal abuse, et cetera. Is that something that's specifically germane to people that are away for longer periods of time, or what has been your experience, Officer Tate, with your colleagues and comrades?
Petty Officer TATE. Personally, I don't have a lot of experience with seeing that. I've seen a lot of upheaval with families just due to the long deployments, you know, a lot of broken marriages, et cetera, things like that, but nothing to the extent of, you know, abuse or anything of that nature, but a longa 6-month deployment does make it really hard on a family, and I'm lucky to have a great wife who has supported me through my naval career. That's about it.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Kuykendall.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. No.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. Mr. Pickett.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to go back to this question I asked before about if you can think back to when you first enlisted, whether you were considering at that time making the military a career. In you all's case, obviously, you enlisted a second time at least so you must have thought a little bit about making it a career, and what caused youif you did decide at some point to make the military a career, what changed your mind?
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Well, when I came in the military, I came in with an open mind. I hadn't really made a decision one way or another. I had done some interviews with one of the national-level agencies, and their advice to me was to do a stint in the military, but my dad being retired military, I liked the life style anyway, and I was anxious to travel and have new experiences, and it's been very positive as far as I've done a lot of neat things. I've liked the deployments. I've liked the hard work. I met a lot of great people, but to be honest with you, the thing that makes it undecided is, it's the OPSTEMPO and the pay. When you really get down to it, all these comparison surveys they have, there is nobody else in the world that would do what we do. You couldn't find a civilian that would come out and put up with the stuff that we do.
And I think the money and stuff the military members are asking for is not outrageous. We're not, you know, people on Seinfeld asking for a million dollars an episode. We're just asking for some decent wages so that people have extra money to put into a retirement plan of their own or people can get adequate day-care or, you knowor their wives can afford to go back to school. So right now I amI would like to see thingsI'm keeping an open mind these next 2 years and giving the military and you gentlemen an opportunity toI would like to see some moves made in the right direction. I'm makingso we can have some more pride, because sometimes I think people don't have pride in the military. For what we do and what we put up with, they don'tthey don't have enough pride in what we do anymore, and the military is way down on the totem pole these days, and I think it needs to be a lot higher for what we do.
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Mr. PICKETT. Thank you.
Staff Sergeant PICCO. Originally, sir, I joined the military basically for experience and the loan repayment program, to pay back the university. Midway through the first enlistment I thought that maybe the Army would be a good career choice andbut I started looking into it. I agree with Sergeant O'Hara, with the OPSTEMPO and the pay, the benefits, itthere has got to be something in it more than just patriotism anymore, sir. We're out there. The soldiers that I work with, you know, they're doing their best, and I think they're seeing a decline in whatwhat they're getting in return for their 20 years, and, to me, that's really the bigthe big clincher. I cannotI haveI'm fortunate. I'm an MP so I have some very marketable skills. I'm highly sought after. So for me it's a little easier decision, but I think there is just a decline in what is available to us as service members, and that's why I'm splitting.
Mr. PICKETT. OK. Thank you.
Petty Officer TATE. I originally joined the Navy for the technical training, and once I got in and started doing the job, I really enjoyed it. I decided I would make a career out of it probably early on, but as time went by and I got married and had a family and started doing some deployments and working really hard toward advancement and not really getting anywhere, it seems now is the time to go.
Mr. PICKETT. It's pretty clear that in your case the lack of advancement or lack of opportunity for advancement has played a large part in your decision. I can sense that.
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Petty Officer SPENCER. Yes, sir. II came in the Navy with no intentions, really. I was primarily coming in for a job and the educational part. That played a big part. I didn't do too well initially in college, and I thought it was a good opportunity to rectify that.
It was during my second enlistment that I chose to make the Navy a career. It was based primarily on, I had been advanced to first class within thatwithin that period of that first enlistment, from the first to the second enlistment. It seemed like my job got easier and the pay got higher, but I see the Navy from back in 1984, when I came in, to today, and they're targeting the people now, and I used to always think that was the secret to the Air Force. I always thought the Air Force always targeted their people and that was primarily responsible for their high retention. Whether I was educated in that area or not, that's what I heard.
The Navy has gone a long way. We're not where we want to be, but we've gone a long way to get to where we are. We've extended the duty sections. We've reduced the time at sea. All the yelling and screaming I've seen back when I initially came in, a lot of that has dissolved. It has its problems, but it has its pluses, and I see it making efforts, such as this panel here, to correct the problems that it's having, and I enjoy it. So that's my reason for staying in.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you.
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Staff Sergeant JACKSON. I have to admit, the main reasonand it's probably going to shock everybodyI came in forfor the money. I wasgot married at 20 years old. I kind of fooled around with college, didn't do too much, worked some odd jobs. My wife was right out of high school. We got married, and I don't know what it was an hour, but I would say $9, $10 an hour was actually a good wage for suburbia Pittsburgh after all the steel mills had shut down and whatnot.
I had kids along the way. I guess as the enlistments came up, it seems like that the job security was there and whatnot, but I guess now my biggest thing is, I've beenbeen a staff sergeant forI guess since 1994.
And I guess getting into the new recruits and all that, it's challenging, and the work isnot only do you have to do your job, but you have toI won't say babysit, so to speak, but you'reyou can get marked down on supervision if youyou have a troop that's causing you problems and your boss doesn't think you're correcting it, and things like that wear you out.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you.
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. Yes, sir. I came in the Air Force really not knowing what it was, but I had no idea what the military really was, but I had gone to college for a year and-a-half and had no direction, and I knew that the military would give me direction. That's about the only thing I did know.
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After about 3 years in the military, I was doing real well, and I really actually thought at that point I would make a career of it, and once I was reassigned to Laughlin, I learned a new job, a new trade. As I learned this job and saw the manning problems that we had and then get worse and it steadily got worse and watching the work load and watching the unhappy people that I work withthe morale is shatteredI don't think I would really want to be a part of that, and I think I can do much better for myself on the outside.
To give you an example of the work load that we do, we have senior airmen that are rating air supervisors on people, which isthat's kind of unheard of. I don't know if it is in the Navy, but in the Air Force that's not really heard of much. Usually it's a staff sergeant when you start rating, and not only that, but the training that's involved, we end up training anywhere from one to three people at a time. I'm training three people at this time, and there is just so much of a work load to be accomplished, and it just doesn't seem there is enough time to do this, and also to get the proper training, and there is a lot of experience now in the corps where I'm at, eight, twelve years, that people are deciding to get out, a lot of experience that's being lost in our career field.
And just to give you an example, there is no solution that's coming because in my job it takes approximately a year and-a-half to mold an apprentice or traffic controller in the radar environment, and they keep on sending usthey keep on swamping us with the people out of tech school, but as they wash out because they can't make the job or the time that it takes, it takes a real long time, and me and my wife have just pretty much decided we're going to look elsewhere for employment after this.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Staff Sergeant CARTER. Sir, pretty much since I signed up, I pretty much figured I was going to use it as a career. I had every intention of staying enlisted and finishing my bachelor's degree as soon as possible and becoming an officer and then a military lawyer after that. After having a child things changed, though. So, like I said, I've already decided to go ahead and stay in. I might not be able to reach the other goals as far as becoming an officer and a military lawyer, but I can at least stay in and go as far as I can as an enlisted, sir.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you Sergeant Bower. Sir, I had planned on staying in from day one, but when you get a little wiser and into your career and a little further down the road and you can see where, you know, the pay is just not there and, you know, there are things that you want to do and you can't doyou know, he made a good comment about losing the people that have been around for a while. If you could sit back and think, somebody who has been in for eight-and-a-half and 10 years and how much money they have put into this person to train them, you know, who is going to take his place? You know, it's not these younger guys that are coming in. You know, it's just a real tough decision, and, like I said, I'm undecided. I could go either way right now, sir.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
I'm going to ask some questions about this idea of doing a thrift savings plan. Now, put on your thinking cap, and the next panel, I'm going to ask you the same question so I want you to thinkthink about this. To develop and implement a plan such as this, it's easy for us to do that for those who are just coming in and doing their enlistment. That's the easy part. It's to take care of you now who are in the 13-year group, OK. How do we implement such a plan and attempt to make you whole, OK? How do we do that? How do you accomplish that? Well, I'm going to ask you what your ideas may be on how we attempt to make you whole.
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Now, do you say we immediately access you into a program and say after the firstupon the first matching dollar from the government you vest? You vest because you've already put in overin fact, if you've had in over 5 years, that will make that perhaps an immediate vest. Do we come in with a lump sum payment? I don't know. There isI tell you why I've been sort of intrigued by leaving the retirement system at the pre 1986 level.
For example, let's explore this. If you leave it theat the 40 percent and say now for that other 10 percent, let's movelet's go to a thrift savings plan, you see many of the military don't have thehave an IRA. They can't afford to do an IRA. Things are toothey would love to have that opportunity, but they just can't afford to do that. So you can gain immediate access to that 40 percent pay upon your retirement. So you could be 41, 42 and you gain immediate access to those dollars, but from the other 10 percent now, it's going toone gentleman before us said, just by pure math alone he's intrigued and excited by the amount that it will be when he turns age 65.
Now, if you have ideas on how we would attempt to make you whole if in fact we decided that would be an area you would like to explore, what would be the best way to make you whole to go to a thrift savings plan? Any ideas?
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. You brought up a good point. We're in the middle-type thing. It would besomething like a 401k or thrift savings plan would have been great whenor would have been an easy decision when I first came in, but you brought up an IRA, too, as well. About a year ago I started an IRA, and what I'm finding is, it's hard just to put the maximum amount in there, like $2,000 or whatever, $2,000, and with the thrift savings plan, I guessI don't know if it would pose the same problem, where hopefully if the pay raisesthe pay increase canis increased too. I guess that would be a great consideration, but basically really what kept me in was the 50 percent retirement, but I guess anything that would benefit me within the next nine years, I'm open to anything.
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I really haven't sat down and done the math or whatever, but it sounds good. It's somethingit's going in the right direction. You already got me soI'm back in. Do something for me.
Mr. BUYER. Does anybody have any ideas on it?
All right. Well, the next panel, think about that.
Mr. HAYES. A couple questions, if I may, Mr. Chairman. How many husband and wife teams do we have, both of whom are in the military? Just the one. When you're deployed, are you ever deployed at the same place?
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. No, sir, and that in itself is a problem. The time my husband and I have been together, we've actually been apart more than we've been together, andand another thing, it's a minor point, but the money thing. Because we're dual military, you don't get separation pay from your family, because you're both military. So notyou've kindyou've kind of doubled the odds. I could be deployed, and then if I'm not deployed, he could be deployed, and then on top of that we don't get the money, either. It's really tough sometimes.
Mr. HAYES. And you get deployed more often because you don't have children?
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Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Pardon me?
Mr. HAYES. And you're getting possibly deployed more often because you don't have children?
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Yes, sir.
Mr. HAYES. An opinion on to draft or not to draft, from your position in the military?
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. No way. Like I said, when you were talking to the other panel, I believe the Air Force has been doing this for a while.
Mr. HAYES. It must be something about that seat, because they were sitting there.
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. The Air Force has been with, you know, a big quality kick for the longest time, and I think that if you want people working for you, happy working for you, it's got to be by their choice, OK, and I don't believe that you can actually draft somebody because everybody has that choice to begin with as long as they basically have a high school education. So you're not limiting anybody's choices on the outside, and basically everybody has the same choice to come in if they make that, you know, decision to do that, and I think you'll get much more quality by allowing people to make that choice, decision on their own, and you'll get better work performance out of them also.
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Mr. HAYES. You also said given the conditions of the existing military, no one that is really right is going to chose the military if pay and benefits are their primary criterion so it falls back to pride and patriotism, and that has value, but how much? Does anybody have a different view about the draft?
Staff Sergeant CARTER. Sir, I'm sort ofI'm somewhat torn. I think this was up a couple of years ago as well, or they've been looking at it for the past couple of years, as far as bringing the draft back, and I was wonderingI think it is a good idea to bring it back. However, we need to keep the same standards or better standards and increase the effective discipline so that we can continue to weed out the ones that don't rate to wear the title, that can't, that aren't capable of it, and I believe that therethere arethere are people out there in the civilian sector that maybe givengivenif there were a draft, if they had to join the service, that they could do a good job for 4 years, and in all honesty, I kind of think society needs it. I know there are a lot of cities today with the gang problems and everything, and the juvenile problems, that they're making them go to some type of boot camps, and from what I've seen or from what I've heard, it's doing some good, and perhaps this could help society.
Mr. HAYES. Well, the idea of draft gives the impression you drag them in kicking and screaming, which isn't necessarily so, but that part of it exists.
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Staff Sergeant O'HARA. I was just going to say, sir, that if you create an environment that is good, pride and patriotism goes a long way. It really does. It's the way we're raised. If youif youthat oldfrom that movie, if you build it, they will come. If you build a good environment, people will want to come in the military, and you don't have to make a lot of high-speed cheesy commercials because your bestsellers, like you mentioned earlier, are us. It's word of mouth. That's where you're going to get your people in the military, and if we feel like it's been a worthwhile thing and that there is something good in it for people, we're going to spread the word and the people will come, but you have to create that environment first and find out, you know, what it is that it will take to compete with the civilian world right now.
Petty Officer SPENCER. Yes, sir. I want to expound on what the sergeant is saying. I think our focus ought to be on retention versus the draft. I think that if weif we're keeping our people in, if we're doing the thingsif we discover why we're losing the people and keep those people in, that's goingthat's going to drive away the question of the draft.
Maybe perhaps ourour focus is probably a little blurred. I think ideally that if we're doing what we can, if we're fixing the work hours, we're fixing the quality of people, we're fixing the pay problem, we're going to keep the people. The quality people that we have here now, we're going to keep those in, and also your word of mouth is going to increase.
If you go see a bad movie, you're going to go out and tell everybody it's a bad movie. People are not going to see the movie. If you go see a good movie, people are going to walk out and tell you, yeah, that's a good movie, you know, you really ought to go see that movie. So that's what we ought to do. We ought to fix the problems that are right now in our military and let that word of mouth get out. You can almost do away with our recruiting force. If we fix our problems internally, we could almost do away with our recruiting force. We have people walking around talking about, hey, you know, I love this, you know, I'm doing this, I'm doing this, the military is doing this for me, I got my education here, I done this here, I done that here. That guy is sitting there that's getting out of high school saying, well, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do right now, but I like what that guy is doing, and I like what he's been saying. You know, that's my neighbor, you know, and look at the things he has got and he's done, and that guy is always talking about the Navy, you know. So perhaps if we just fix our problems internally we can do away with the draft.
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Mr. HAYES. That's a great point, but what you said raised another point, the cost issue. All of a sudden if we do so well, then everybody in the military is an officer and we don't have any enlisted people anymore. So there is some kind of mix, and I'm justappreciate you all helping to juggle this thing so we can understand better.
Staff Sergeant PICCO. I think like what Petty Officer Spencer is saying is that I think we need to concentrate more on the quality. We're alreadyas noncommissioned officers, petty officers, we're already expected to do more with less. That's our job. I don't think we complain about it, but we find that when you have a quality soldier, doing more with less is more enjoyable. You start to get your pride back, and if you straighten out maybe some of these pay benefits and stuff like that, then I think what you'll find out is that the quality soldiers will probably want to stay, and that's what I think you need to concentrate on. One soldier that's a quality soldier can do the work of two soldiers, and if he feels or she feels that they're getting some rewards for that, for their hard work and dedication, then they're more likely to stay. I think that's what you need to concentrate on. Bring people in the military that want to come into the military because the military is a great place to be.
Mr. HAYES. One more thing and then I'll quit, Mr. Chairman.
Back to an earlier comment about politically correct. I was in Richmond County, North Carolina, Eighth District, the other day, and they had an ROTC Army unit of young people, men and women who were fired up. They were motivated. They were excited. There is a bunch of qualified people that are going to come to the military if we can recreate that sort of atmosphere within our school system. ROTC is a great thing. That may be a part of our discussion. It was exciting to see those young people. They were really pumped up.
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Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Can I make one more comment, sir? You made that comment about everybody wanting to be an officer. That's not true.
Mr. HAYES. I realized I made a mistake when I said that.
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. My husband is an officer. That's great, whatever, but, you know, being an NCO, it's working with soldiers. That's where wethat's where we get our pride, by makingmaking great soldiers. That'sor airmen or petty officers, whatever corps, Marine Corps, whatever we're in. That's where we get our pride, but the problem is, I find for myself, we don't have the time. With this OPSTEMPO, with all the different tasks we're doing and deployments, actually spending one-on-one time with your soldiers these days is getting to be such a hard thing that all this knowledge and experience that we have, we can't pass it on. We just don't get the face time. All the fun stuff that we used to do in the military when I first came in, we don't have time to do any of that anymore. Everything is just sowe try to compact so many training tasks in a short amount of time, but we really got this deployment, and, well, you can't take all day to do that because I need you to do this, and, oh, by the way, you have to go, you know, stand in this parade and you have to go direct traffic. We don't get that face time that you need if you're going to make subordinates, you know, move up through the ranks.
Mr. HAYES. Thank you for correcting me. That was definitely a mistake. Where are you stationed?
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. Fort Bragg, sir.
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Mr. BUYER. On the earlier panel one of the ladies said life is about choices, which is right. We also have to make choices here so let meto help us, if II hate to do it in this fashion but I'm going to. If you had a choice between increasing your present pay or repealing Redux, which would you choose? I'll go down the line.
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. I would take the increased pay, sir, because I already have my own investments, and I would like more money to be able to work on my own with.
Staff Sergeant PICCO. The same, sir, increased pay.
Petty Officer TATE. I also would like increased pay, sir.
Petty Officer SPENCER. Same.
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. The pay would take care of you, you know, in the end, anyway. You would be getting a big40 percent or 50 percent of a bigger sum.
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. I would probably have to go with the pension. That's more important to me.
Staff Sergeant CARTER. The increase in pay, sir. Sergeant Bower Same.
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Mr. BUYER. All right. Now I'll give you a choice between retirement of Redux
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You didn't think you were getting off that easy, did you?
Mr. HAYES. We'll put you in the witness protection program.
Mr. BUYER. Now I will give you the choice between repeal of the Redux and just taking it directly to 50 percent, treat you like everyone else, or repeal of Redux with a thrift savings plan and I'll figure out how to make you whole. I'll give you a choice between that. In other words, take you to 50 percent on repealed Redux or leave you at the 40 percent and we cover that other 10 percent with awith a thrift savings plan? That's your choice.
Staff Sergeant O'HARA. I would rather take the 50 percent, sir.
Mr. BUYER. You'll take the 50 percent.
Staff Sergeant PICCO. Would that be matching, sir?
Mr. BUYER. Yes.
Staff Sergeant PICCO. I would probably go with the Redux, go ahead and repeal the Redux, 50 percent.
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Petty Officer TATE. I would probably go with the savings thrift plan.
Petty Officer SPENCER. I'll stay with the 50 percent.
Staff Sergeant JACKSON. I would say 50 percent.
Staff Sergeant DUSZAK. Fifty percent.
Staff Sergeant CARTER. I would say go with the 40 percent and the TSP, sir.
Sergeant BOWER. Same thing, thrift plan.
Mr. BUYER. Make our job easy.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. We're real good at asking questions. It's the answers that are
Mr. BUYER. Well, what is important, we're going to try to make you whole. We're going to try to create an incentive to get people to retain you and try to pay for it but try to be creative in that process. I'm now uncomfortable that we've gotten 50/50 just on this panel alone.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me conclude here with you, Petty Officer Spencer.
Petty Officer SPENCER. Yes, sir. The Redux program wasmy understanding, was originally intended to try to encourage people to go to the 30-year mark instead of getting out at 20; is that correct?
Mr. BUYER. Yes.
Petty Officer SPENCER. The Redux with the 30k plan isis perhaps a good idea at the 15-year mark. I just want to throw this at you. Instead of 1530k at the 15-year mark, if you're trying to encourage people to stay in to 30, what if you gave them a $10,000 bonus at 15 to do the 20, if you gave them $10,000 to do from 20 to 25 and $10,000 to do from 25 to 30? If you give them $15,000 or $30,000 at 15 to stay 20, you still got that guy out at 20. You lost that guy. If our original intention was to keep them to 30 because we got this guy that's been in 20 years and top of the line, he's the tech, he's the subject matter expert and he breaks at 20 because that's to his advantage, if the program was targeted to keep them to 30, it would spread it out, take that same $30,000, you give him a $10,000 bonus at 15 years, he's more inclined to take that and do those next 5 years. You give him $10,000 at that 20-year mark, he's inclined to take that $20,000 andor that $10,000 and say, well, I'll do the next 5 years. You give him $10,000 at the 25-year mark, he's inclined to say, well, I'll go ahead and finish these last 5 years out, and we've achieved the goal of keeping this guy in for 30 years.
Mr. BUYER. Yes.
Mr. LARSON. Mr. Chairman, and hopefully this is consistent with your line of thinking on this, and since we've asked the next panel to be thinking about thetaking a long look at the pensions, maybe perhaps also the concept referred to in the private sector as the cafeteria approach, where you do have the flexibility to choose between various different kinds of plans given your particular position, in some cases where you don't have children and in other cases where pension considerations may be different, depending upon the amount of time that you served, and providing you with a similar kind of flexibility that people have in the private sector.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. May I finish?
Mr. BUYER. OK.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I want to ask because this is very important to us. Everybody who made the statement about ''take the 50 percent,'' is it understoodI'll put this in your terms, Petty Officer Spencer. For example, you put the $10,000 in. If you had a thrift savings plan and you were contributing to that thrift savings plan and the government was contributing a percentage as well to that and you took the $10,000, for example, to stay the extrastay another 5 years, that means that $10,000if you put the $10,000 into the thrift savings plan, that $10,000 would be earning you the interest over that 5-year period.
Mr. BUYER. Tax-deferred.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Tax-deferred. So I hopeI just wanted to make sure everybody wasn't just choosing between the pension change and the thrift savings plan, I hope, like it was an either/or because I think what we're trying to get at here is can we do something that will really work for retention. I appreciate your commentary on that, and it was very, very important for you to say it, but is everybody clear that the thrift savings plan has a matching, where you get a tax deferral and there is interest being earned from the day thateach day that that money goes in?
Petty Officer SPENCER. In addition to the 50 percent or are you saying 40 percent and the TSP?
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Mr. BUYER. Forty percent and the TSP.
What is an unknownand let me discuss this right hereis the fact, the Ways and Means Committee is not going to be too excited about giving you the opportunity to takeeven if they doeven if we match what the Senate does and take a $30,000 bonus at a 15-year mark and say we give you the choice, you either take that $30,000 up front now or you can take it and you put it into the thrift savings plan, Ways and Means won't be too excited about doing that because we're taking tax revenue out of circulation, and they don't get their hands on tax revenue until you've taken out the retirement. So even trying to get Ways and Means convinced to permit you to put it in a thrift savings plan may be difficult, but thosesee, we're open to ideas, and that's what we're in search of.
Let me thank you for your testimony. If you have ideas that I've asked you, please write to me at the committee and let me know. We appreciate your contribution. Thank you for being here today.
We'vewe've had a great discussion here today, and we have two panels left, and we got our own time schedules so I've been scolded, I just want to let you know, by staff to keep this moving.
WeI just want you to know how much we enjoy being here and talking to you. We get to hear from admirals and generals and sergeants, majors, but it's greatit's great to hear from you.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The third panel we'll have is 1st Lt. Veronica Armstrong, United States Army, transportation officer at Fort Hood. Next we'll have Capt. Samuel Butler, United States Army, armor officer at Fort Hood. Next is Lt. Eric Mason, United States Navy, a nuclear officer, USS Oklahoma. Then we'll have Lt. Kathryn Tribble, United States Navy, surface warfare officer, USS Laboon, 1st Lt. Kenneth Grace, United States Air Force, transportation officer from Dover Air Force Base. Then we'll have Capt. Anthony Gomillion, United States Air Force, civil engineer at Shaw Air Force Base. We'll also hear from Capt. Michael Steadman, United States Marine Corps, headquarters and service company commander from Norfolk. We'll also then hear from Capt. William Tibbs, United States Marine Corps, battalion staff officer at Camp Lejeune.
Lieutenant Armstong, you may begin.
STATEMENT OF 1ST LT. VERONICA ARMSTRONG, UNITED STATES ARMY
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. Gentlemen, good morning. I am 1st Lt. Veronica Armstrong, U.S. Army, Transportation Corps. I currently serve with the 13th Corps Support Command, Fort Hood, Texas, originally from California.
I am leaving the active service and transitioning to the Texas National Guard. My husband transitioned also to the Guard a year ago. If I could sum up all my reasons for leaving the active service, in one word it would be for stability, stability and family life, stability and job placement/security.
To embellish, my husband and I, we would like to start a family. In my opinion, the high OPSTEMPO of the Army at this point is not conducive to raising children. The active Army requires a hundred percent commitment, and I feel that raising children also requires a hundred percent commitment. That is a very personal reason for leaving the active service. However, in my short Active Duty tenure as an officer, three-and-a-half years in the Army, I've Permanent Change of Station [PCS] twice and held five different jobs.
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I didn't join the Army for the money or the college benefits. I joined because I wanted to serve our country and I enjoyed the loyalty of being in a unit. I joined during Desert Storm. I enlisted, and my parents had to sign me into the Army. I really wanted to serve. I really wanted to go to Desert Storm. However, the Army, in my opinion, moves its officers from job to job, unit to unit so frequently, totally disregarding any loyalty or bonds we've established there. We're checking the blockI'm sure you've heard that term beforeand then moving on to the next requirement, and that's how a lot of senior officers, I feel, in my opinion, are viewing the different jobs, that they're just blocks to be checked.
Soldiers are being transplanted from division to division, and they're being used as individual replacements for deployments. They're not deploying as units or companies or battalions. They're a specialist as being shipped off to replace another specialist in Bosnia or Kuwait. Not only have the frequent deployments become lonely on the aspect of being far away from one's family, therebut worse yet, being separated from those we serve and train with every day.
I hope to find stability in the National Guard, a sense of ownership, a place where I can learn, train, and eventually command soldiers I know are ready for the challenge of warfare, and, Mr. Chairman, if I could give you a suggestion on the recruiting campaign, if you don't want the soldiers to expect things like great benefits and education and, you know, the GI Bill, don't promise them these things in the commercials. That's all the commercials say in the Army, learnyou know, we can give you this training, you have the opportunity to learn all this training and then go to college, and they hardly ever talk aboutyou know, that's the first things that come out of their mouth in the commercial. It should be, you know, learn to be a strong man or woman, you know, serve your country, do something for your country, you know, this is your country. Instead the Army is saying I can do this for you, I can do that for you, and that's whatthat's what they expect because that's what they hear when they come in.
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Part of the reason civilians join the service is for the adventure, to go to the field, to beto have that camaraderie, to ship off and see, you know, exotic places and to establish those close bonds of loyalty and honor and integrity that a lot of times you just don't see in the civilian sector.
I believe there is a loss of faith, that even though the, you know, benefits for package A are right now today, it's going to turn into package B tomorrow. In 10 years the package you're promising me now will be package B, and then 10 years from then it's going to be package C. So for long-term recruitment, these benefits, the GI Bill and 401k savings plan, really they're enticing members to get out. The education plan that you're offering soldiers, again, I think theMr. Abercrombie said it in the first panel, you know, it's actually enticing the initial termers to get out early because that's what you promised them. I will promise to pay for your college if you serve in the Army. So they say, OK, I served my 4 years and now I want to get out and go to college, and people are asking why are you getting out. Well, there is the reason. They want to go to college, and that's all I have. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Captain Butler.
STATEMENT OF CAPT. SAMUEL BUTLER, UNITED STATES ARMY
Captain BUTLER. Good evening, gentlemen. My name is Capt. Samuel Butler. I'm an armor captain stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I'm currently assigned to the Fourth Infantry Division, Force 21. I'm originally from Surry, Virginia, and my primary reason for considering resigning from the military is due to OPSTEMPO. I look at the officers that are senior to me currently and the amount of time they have to put into their day-to-day operations to ensure that the force is prepared to train and go to war, and it is such that my boss actually comes in approximately 4:30 to 5 in the morning and does not leave until approximately 1900 to 2000 at night to maintain and keep up with hiswith the operational work that we have to do to sustain the force. That is not something that I want to do for the rest of my life in looking at my future because I have a wife and two children, and I love them dearly and I want to spend time with them. Currently, like I said before, I'm considering that, and that is primarily my reason for considering resignation.
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STATEMENT OF LT. ERIC MASON, UNITED STATES NAVY
Lieutenant MASON. Good afternoon. My name is Lt. Eric Mason. I am a nuclear trained officer on board the USS OKLAHOMA submarine out of Norfolk. I've been in the military for 4 years now. I am married, and my wife is a service warfare officer. She's on a sea tour at this time. I do intend to remain in the military, but my wife intends to leave due to the family separation.
Things that I consider are family, most important. That's why we made a decision to me remain in and her leave. We do not have kids right now due to the fact that we both have sea tours. I do enjoy the time that I am at right now. I enjoy working on the nuclear power plant and driving a submarine and working with the technical experts we have in the engine room. I'm looking forward to the educational opportunity I have on shore duty and also later on in my career in the military. I am looking forward to benefits, though. Maybe if my wife does decide to get out she'll have the opportunity for the military to continue paying for her school or increase the pay. So, like I said, my intentions are to remain in the military.
STATEMENT OF LT. KATHRYN TRIBBLE, UNITED STATES NAVY
Lieutenant TRIBBLE. Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is Lt. (JG) Kathryn Tribble. I graduated from the Naval Academy, class of 1996. My husband is also a member of the class of 1996 out of the Academy. Right now we are both going to be getting out. I'll be getting out near the end of my commitment. He is looking at attempting a shore tour in order to work toward getting his master's degree.
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Most of our friends that we know from the Academy are all looking at getting out, people who are gung-ho, go-get-them military, joined all the professional clubs, people who are presidents of these clubs are all getting out either because of their experience or the experience of their spouse. All the women I know in the military, I guess four or five I hang around with consistently, are all married to other military members, and they're all seeing the same thing.
My primary reasons for getting out would definitely would beOPSTEMPO is part of it. It's not even only the OPSTEMPO. The thing is, also it's the hours we work in port when we're not at sea, the week here, the week there, a month at sea and then 6 months on a deployment, some of the little stuff you might not expect. We all knew we were getting into the 6-month deployment. It's the little stuff and it's the 10- to 12-hour days every day and getting a look like ''what do you mean you want to go home?''
My captain asks me all the time, ''Why aren't you staying in?'' He said, ''When I was your age, I looked at my department head and said there was nothing else I wanted to do than be that department head,'' and I looked at him and said, ''Sir, I don't want to be my department head. My department head stays later than I do.'' I mean, several of the department heads, my captain, all have infant children. I don't think they ever see them awake. Most of these men don't leave until 1900, 2000 at night. They come in on weekends. I get phone messages at 8:30 at night from my Executive Officer [XO]. It's things like that, sir, that are really the deciding factor, I think.
We always say you can have a family and be in the military, but I don't think realistically, sir, that is good for a family, to say that one parent is never going to be home before 1900 or 2000 at night.
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On another note, sir, we talked a lot about pay with some of the previous panels. I don't know about my contemporaries here on this panel, but I could have made a lot more going someplace else than the Naval Academy. The pay for officers, at least, I don't think, is as much the question. It might make the decision harder, but it wouldn't have changed my mind.
The 401k plan, again, is a great idea, but it wouldn'tit wouldn't be enough to change my mind. The question, sir, is the OPSTEMPO and the demands being placed on officers for the amount of work that we are trying to wring out of fewer people in a given day, sir.
STATEMENT OF 1ST LT. KENNETH GRACE, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
Lieutenant GRACE. Congressman Pickett, I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and
Mr. PICKETT. Welcome home.
Lieutenant GRACE.Congressman Buyer, I went to high school and college in Indiana.
Congressman Abercrombie, if you and your colleagues see fit to give us a pay raise, I'm looking forward to taking a vacation out in Hawaii.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. This guy should be running for Congress.
Lieutenant GRACE. I'm 1st Lt. Kenneth Grace, and I'm a transportation officer at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. My current plans are to apply to the 1999 Air Force-funded legal education program. The board meets next month, and if selected, I plan to stay in for a full 20 or 30. If I'm not selected, my career plans are undecided at this point, and there are two main reasons why I'm considering other options. First, I feel my calling is to study law, and if I can't do it in the Air Force, then I would like to try it on my own. Second, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to look myself and my troops in the eye and tell them that the Air Force is a great way of life.
Increase in pay, reestablishing the 50 percent 20-year retirement and adding thrift savings plan are great and would probably translate into some higher retention, but I feel that there are othersome other very deep issues that I feel need correcting and would translate into even higher retention. For example, we need to fix the falling unit budgets. Every year I've been stationed at Dover we've taken a 10 to 20 percent pay cut every year, and that gets very difficult to buy the things that we need to do the job. Sending people to TDYs; for example, it took some money for me to come down here. Luckily we didn't come so far so it didn't take that much, but somewhere down the line, probably around July, there is probably a vehicle that's going to need a part that this money could have paid for.
We need to fix the poor manning levels, to include civilians. Right now the military is pretty much done with their downsizing, but the civilians are still taking pretty heavy cuts. I lost seven vehicle operators before I actually got to take the job that I'm in now, and we lost a wealth of information, a wealth of information that hopefully will be able to be replaced by some of the NCOs, but we still miss them dearly.
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Also on my mind is the eroding health care, especially for dependents. I personally have not had a problem yet. I've been lucky. I try to stay out of the hospitals, but I see a lot of my troops complaining about getting in to see the doctor and for certain reasons.
And last, like the other officers have already mentioned, the high OPSTEMPO is killing us. We get deployed all the time. I have to rely on three people to do the work of five. Sometimes it takes hours. I myself am filling three positions. I'm the vehicle operations officer, the vehicle maintenance officer and the squadron resource officer in addition to the myriad of additional duties that I take on, like the disaster control representative, the tactical deception officer and the public affairs officer for my unit, so we're just being tagged with so many things all at ones.
If I could put a plug in since I am a transportation officer, the vehicle issue right now has not been worked out to our satisfaction. We're sending vehicles to the bone yard and we're not getting any new ones in, and I know there is a plan to lease these vehicles, but it's not happening fast enough, and my operators are not able to drive the old vehicles, and my mechanics are having to fix them, and we don't have enough money to keep them on the road. So if I could just put a plug in to that.
I hope I can give you some useful information today and promise to answer your questions truthfully and to the best of my ability. Thank you very much.
Mr. BUYER. Capt. Gomillion.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF CAPT. ANTHONY GOMILLION, UNITED STATES AIR FORCE
Captain GOMILLION. Good afternoon. I'm Capt. Tony Gomillion, civil engineer at Shaw Air Force Base. I'm a 1993 graduate of the Air Force Academy, and the Academy was really good to me in many ways, the foremost of which was blessing me with a wife. My wife was also an Air Force Academy graduate and has since separated. She's at home taking care of our two children, ages four and one.
I would have to be forthright in letting you know that I'm a Christian and I feel I'mI'm separating. One of the big reasons I'm separating is, I feel like the Lord has called me to ministry, but he's used a lot in the military to move me that way so that's why I have an opportunity to be here today.
One of the largest factors that is used both in my declination of a pilot slot from the Academy and now my departure from Active Duty was the excessive strain that is and will continue to be levied on my family, the fact of that family stability idea. For me and many like me, the increased frequency and duration of overseas deployments, the growing work load at home station, a frustrating health care system, declining retirement benefits and at times a troubling foreign policy have signaled that tomorrow's military readiness will likely come at the expense of our families.
Sir, we enjoy and I enjoy and I take great pride in being an American warrior. I think we all do. We take great pride in representing our nation around the globe. The irony is that today's OPSTEMPO and to some degree the foreign policy that drives it, and I know we can't address that wholly here, but it has taken us away from home so often that in most career fields ourno kiddingwar-fighting skills are actually eroding, and I think that's pretty safe to say for all of us.
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With these inherent challenges, I nevertheless take great pride in serving in and representing today's world finest Air Force. I think we all look forward to helping you be a part of the solution, so thank you for your time.
Mr. BUYER. Capt. Steadman.
STATEMENT OF CAPT. MICHAEL STEADMAN, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Captain STEADMAN. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm Capt. Michael Steadman, assigned to the Marine Corps security force battalion here in Norfolk, originally from Rhode Island. I have almost 10 years in the Marines. I have two-and-a-half years enlistment in the United States Navy. I've only been married for 3 years.
My reasons for leaving the Marine Corps are mostly personal. I desire to have a greater role in taking care of my children. I decided to make a career change away from my military occupational specialty of 0180 Adjutant. Being an adjutant at the unit, I'm also tasked with numerous additional duties, which I'm sure the rest of the officers on the panel can tell you about. One of the biggest ones is being a legal officer. I get to handle all the legal cases that come through and the court-martials and Non-judicial punishments [NJPs] for administrative separations.
My intentions upon separation in June are to participate in the active Reserves. I don't want to let go of the Marine Corps entirely. I think the Reserves and the Marines are a great place to go to. Some of the things that I would like to see personally is a pull away from the educational benefits, like some of the panel members said, not the immediate benefits you're going to get for doing a 4-year stint in the service, but I think we need to emphasize the military is a professional force. We are moving to or have been moving to being totally professional overall. I think we erode that professionalism by letting the recruits or possible recruits think they can get in and, you know, get their benefits, and that kind of pulls away from the fact of keeping them in.
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We need to let them know that those benefits are there, and we do need those people that come in for only a short term because not everybody, as you know, can be promoted up the grade scale, but for the quality people that we're targeting, we need to let them know that they have an opportunity to stay in and they can do great things, and we need to hit hard on that. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF CAPT. WILLIAM TIBBS, UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
Captain TIBBS. Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is Capt. Robert Tibbs, and I'm also from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, currently serving as a Marine Corps base staff secretary. I'm originally also from San Marino, California, married 9 years, have two little boys, three and two.
Most of my information that I'm going to give you today is from a tradeoff perspective. We made a conscious decision as a family unit that my wife was a college graduate and would not work while we had young children. So I'm giving you a perspective from a single-income family, and fortunately the pay is good enough that we have the option to do that. However, my indecision to stay in or get out of the military is solely based on what is good for me and my family. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Marine Corps career to date. I have learned a tremendous amount. The people that I work with, I don't think you could find that caliber in the private sector, and that's probably the driving force of staying in the military today.
However, when I talk family concerns, I'm talkingI know I'm giving a little minutia, but I'm talking family housing. I'm talking medical. I've had three government quarters, and all three of those government quarters have clearly easily been older than myself. Yes, two of them have been remodeled. However, if I'm forced to go out into town for my quarters, I'm losing money out of mylike I say, I'm losing money out of my pocket. Base housing allowance doesn't cover those quarters, so on and so forth.
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And it's the anxiety, and our profession iscomes with anxiety and stress. However, what can we do to reduce that anxiety? And stress affects our family life, and that's most important to me.
Retirement is definitely a concern. Whether it be addressed through a savings plan or repeal of the Redux, either/or, I think you should give the service person an option. People always like to make choices, and whether they had the option of doing their own 401kyou know, 401k or something like that, you give somebody the money to do it themselves or you help them through the government thrift savings plan, so on and so forth, I think that's a step in the right direction.
My personal opinion on OPSTEMPO is an interesting question, and it's an interesting question for two reasons. If there is less of a force to keep up with operational commitments that we're signing up to, then obviously I'm going to have to go more often. I've been extremely fortunate in the OPSTEMPO in the fact that in my nine-and-a-half year marriage I haven't been separated from my family in excess of a year-and-a-half. However, my next door neighbor and so on and so forth have done three, four, five deployments of 6 months at a pop, and that's just not conducive to family life, and if that were me, I wouldn't be sitting here today. I would be somewhere else.
Those are basically my concerns, and I do appreciate the opportunity to be here today.
Mr. BUYER. I appreciate yourall of your candor and your comments. This is the third panel, and, again, I don't mean to be redundant, but it just shows that the complexity of the issue, it's not just one thing. Throwing money at it is not going to solve this one.
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One gentleman, I think it was Captain Gomillion, mentioned the foreign policy. Even if the policies of engagement around the world in utilizing the military in different roles other than vital national security interest, at a time when we decrease the force, it means you go back to the well often, and it hasit is a fact that it does have an impact. So I'm hearing that from you, so sometimes those big policy decisions in fact all trickle down, and it does make a very real impact.
Since you leftsince you finished off with the question I asked the other panel, I'm going toI'll ask you giving you those choices, the choice between the repeal of the Redux and annuity at 50 percent or leaving it at the 40 percent and giving you the choice of a thrift savings plan to attempt to make it whole, which would you choose?
Lieutenant Armstrong, which would keep you, to stay?
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. Sir, I can honestly say I've lost faith. It will change. Whatever you all decide to vote, we'll get a whole new set of Congressmen in there some 10 years down the road and they'll hold another panel and they'll change it again. I honestly believe that it will change again.
Mr. BUYER. All right. You didn't answer my question, though.
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. I would probably stick with the
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HAYES. She said none of the above.
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. I would probably go with retirement since you're already inyou know, you've already established
Mr. BUYER. Take it to 50?
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. Yes, sir.
Mr. BUYER. Captain Butler.
Captain BUTLER. Sir, I would actually take the 40 percent and some variation of a TSP.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Lieutenant MASON. Sir, I would take the 50 percent, sir.
Lieutenant TRIBBLE. Sir, I would take the TSP.
Lieutenant GRACE. Sir, neither would be a deciding factor, but I would take the TSP if offered the choice.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Captain GOMILLION. TSP for me too, sir.
Captain STEADMAN. Fifty percent, sir.
Captain TIBBS. TSP for me, sir.
Mr. BUYER. Glad I asked this question again, aren't you?
Lieutenant GRACE. There was a slim majority there, sir.
Mr. BUYER. Was there? All right.
Let mejust as a quick side note, and I'll then yield to Mr. Abercrombie, I am bothered by the number of AcademyI'm going to pick on the Academy for just a second, by the number of Academy graduatesall Members of Congress here, we participate in a very stringent selection process and for what you went through, and the Nation in turn made a decision to educate you in a particular manner and identified you as part of the nation's elite and are hopeful, obviously, to be the next admirals and generals, and I'm not saying in any waywithout being condescending toward the six military colleges or the ROTC programs, but that is a unique program, and we are bothered by the number of whom are becoming the CEOs of America instead of the generals and admirals of America. That doesn't meanactually, you would think I would have equal satisfaction because then we would have those in the private sector in honors and understanding honor and trust and integrity, and that has a value to society, but I want you to know I'm bothered whenLt. Tribble, when you testify and say all of your friends who are Academy graduates are leaving, enlighten me a little bit beyond your opening statement.
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Lieutenant TRIBBLE. Sir, I don't think it was the Academy experience per se. As stressful as that may be, we went into it understanding you're going to getyou're going to get paid very little, you're going to have very little free time for those 4 years and basically every second of your day is just about scheduled. We hadbetween studies and drill and everything else, we had very little time to ourselves during those 4 years, but there is always the pride that when you get out you're going to be an officer and you're at least going to get to go home at night. I think that has been the problem with all the people I know, sir, is, they look at the OPSTEMPO that they go through, they look at the hours they work and, worse, they look at the hours that their superiors work, the department heads and the executive officers work, and just say there is nothingthere is nothing better ahead, that the hours and the stresses are only going to get worse, sir.
Mr. BUYER. How soonI know there is a recruiting program out there on the academies, and particularly the officer corps, but to go back to the Academy for a second, how soon when you get on Active Duty do you getthe employers start sending youyou know, the Texas Instruments of the world and those who are really linked into the academies, how soon do you start getting letters from employers enticing you to come out and even paying your way to visit companies?
Lieutenant GRACE. Sir, it's about theit's about the 3-year mark, but I don'tI don't honestly know that the Academy grads are anyare singled out any more differently than any other officers. Really, we all get headhunter applications weekly
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BUYER. All of you are?
Lieutenant GRACE [continuing]. At theat the three- to 4-year mark.
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. Yes, sir, on government e-mail, as a matter of fact, also, and it's legal. It's legal. They go through headquarters and ask permission, and it is legal.
Captain BUTLER. Sir, I would just like to say, I graduated from VMI, and quite a few of my friends are military graduatesAcademy graduates, and I find that a large majority of them, more so than individuals from your ROTC institutions, are getting out, and it's primarily because of the reason that she said, because of everything that we have to do on a daily basis to keep up with the force, to include our planning and things of that nature, and because of that, you put in those hours, and then you look at the time that your contemporaries are putting in on the outside, the amount of money that they're making and the amount of time that they're putting in in the office, and there is no comparison, and because of that reason, most of them are doing their time and they're making the transition.
Captain GOMILLION. Sir, if I could add, as an engineer, ourthe pinnacle that we're supposed to be shooting for, the mark of success, is to be a lieutenant colonel squadron commander. On an Air Force base the lieutenant colonel squadron commander engineer, the base engineer, is responsible for everything from the grass in the crack on the general's sidewalk in front of housing to launching jets off of fully functional runways and everything in between. When I lookand I'm hearing this echoed all up and down the panel. When I look at my squadron commander, the 18-, 19-year lieutenant colonel and he comes in at 5 in the morning and he leaves at 8:30 at night and he's getting phone calls about the grass in the crack at the general's sidewalk, whatin terms ofyou've trained us as military leaders at the senior airman, NCO, whatever levels. You've trained us to be leaders and to think ahead and to plan ahead and to be visionaries, and our forward thinking is leading us to believe, you know, what is the tradeoff, you know.
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We are looking ahead. We're saying if I'm supposed to be a lieutenant colonel at 18 years and I'm going to be working from 5 in the morning until 7 at night, having my wife bring me supper at the office and not see my kids go to bed, what is that to work for? In real life, real answers, I have a family. I have a career to support my family. I don't have a family to support my career, and in many ways it comes down to that for a lot of us.
The manning is just getting sowe don't mind serving. We love serving. Believe it or not, there are those of us in the Air Force who like going in the field and getting dirty and low crawling with weapons and being wahoo like the Army. We enjoy being warriors, but webut we really are not having an opportunity to train and fight likelike we joined up to do. We're caught up in the minutia from morning until night of just the administration because manning is what it is. That's enough, sir.
Mr. BUYER. Well, I will note that that is the best- looking haircut I've seen on an Air Force officer. You know, the Marines here are eventhey may need to take you in tonight.
Let me now yield to Mr. Abercrombie.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Captain Butler, I'm going to go to you first, and maybe justjust you, and maybe anybody else who cares to answer can give a short answer. We heard from everybody aboutmost people about the difficulties and what was perhaps driving them out. What would it take to keep you in? I wroteI'm picking on you first because I was impressed by thewhat you recited in terms of the difficulties, but I got the impression that you would like to stay, and I would like to knowit doesn't have to be necessarily one thing, but I'm sure you've considered it, and that's why it would be valuable if you could give meand I'm talking a little bit to give you a chance to think about it.
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What would it takewhat could you recommend to us that would give you pause, then, about leaving and instead think I'm goingI'm going to stay with this? You went to VMI. You obviouslyfor many people, and this hasn't been mentioned much today, but it'sit's implicit in everything. General Powell has said that the armed services have offered an opportunity for minorities, for women. If anything, the armed services have led the way in trying to make this democracy what it should be instead of what we talk about it being. So I'm sure that's crossed your mind, too. What would it take to keep you in the service?
Captain BUTLER. Sir, I would have to say predictability. That is the driving force, I think. When you're in the Army, you understand that you're going to have to deploy. You understand what your mission is and what you'rewhat you're signing on to do, but at the same time I think, like some of the other panels have said, some of our reasons for committing to certain things as far as different policies and things of that nature have caused us to commit a force that is a lot smallerthat is smaller than necessarily the number of missions that we are taking on, and I think with regards to that, that is primarily what would really probably change my mind.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Would it be fair to say thatI'm going toI'm doing this kind of broad brush myself. The drawdown/deployment factor, is itis central to this whole question about deployment stress and all the rest? In other words, you've drawn downwe've drawn down numbers considerably. We've gone up in the number of family situations that exist in all the services, and we've gone up with the number of deployments, length of time, different deployments that people expect with the smaller force, and that has ramifications and implications both domestically and in the field, right?
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Captain BUTLER. Yes, sir. Yes, it does. At the same time, the forfeiture division is currently redesigning, and it is currently our situation that we have to maintain still a certain readiness level, and so we're redesigning, changing the forestructure totally, and we still have to maintain that readiness level, and so at the same time we still have shrinking personnel issues, and it's a whole lot to manage. Because of the managing of that piece and becoming digitized at the same time, we spend long hours at work in order to plan and get through that, and I know that's a transition period and probably will tail off at the end, but everybody is not making that transition to a digitized division and you still see across the panel that everyone is still spending as many hours at work as we are.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
Anybody else care to comment on that generally?
Yes, Lieutenant. I understand you want toyou've got this particular assignment, right, in the legal side?
Lieutenant GRACE. Oh, definitely, sir, definitely, but thinking beyond that more broad, a good workable budget for me would be key, and adequate manning, and I would trade more people for fewer deployments or vice versa. It really doesn't matter, but it seems we get our chain jerked about every three to 4 months, rescuing some other country or going to the Desert or to Korea or for an exercise or for an inspection. It just seems that we get sent out so often and sometimes for reasons, to us, that don't seem very important.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You were here earlier in the day, were you not?
Lieutenant GRACE. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. You heard Senior Airman Nicole Cassata.
Lieutenant GRACE. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. She made, I thought, a very attractive case for saying that maintenance and equipment and so on were crucial to her not job satisfaction in the sense of being selfish but rather to exercise the professional level quality that she wanted to do for her job.
Lieutenant GRACE. Yes, sir, very much accurate. One thing that stands out in my mind right now is, my squadron is responsible for maintaining the entire fleet for snow removal equipment, and in Delaware that sometimes can be important, clearing off the flight line and the roads and things like that for the base. Well, we aren't funded to fix those vehicles. So everything we take out of hide so I go with hat in hand to ask for more money, and it seems like a constant struggle having to ask for more money to buy the equipment and the parts for those vehicles.
Now, what happens is, I'll say I need $50,000 to repair this to the professional nature of the job and to get it done right the first time, but instead of getting $50,000, I'll get $10,000 or $15,000 or $20,000 and they'll say make it work, and then I'll band-aid everything up in hopes that it works, and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't.
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Do you think that that has a lot to do with morale and job satisfaction?
Lieutenant GRACE. Very much so.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Hayes.
Mr. HAYES. Thank you.
One thing that just seems to me that I might insert at this point, just so you all understand what we are trying to do a little better, I don't know if you know what party we are in as we sit on this panel. Probably you don't, and that's a good thing, but as a freshman, one of the things that I saw that was most encouraging to me as a new member on the House Armed Services Committee was that here is a group of peopleand I'm starting to count before my time came upbut a group of people who are committed to giving you the best equipment, the best training, the best possible working conditions. It has nothing to do with politics whatsoever, but let's say there are 70 of us on the committee. There are 435 in total, and we have a little bit bigger challenge with some of our Members to help them understand. So what you're doing to help us understand helps us to communicate to them again what you're up against. So that makes it even more important that you have come to tell us. I hope that gives you a little insight into what we're trying to do.
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Having said that, we had a military budget back in the 1980's, as I recall, that was $420,000,000, and now it's about half that. We deploy three times as much in a quarter of the time. So what I hear you saying is, there is no backup. You're combat ready and you can do it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So we have to give more emphasis, which translates into money, so that you can have some backup so that the instances that you all relate in different ways don't continue to occur. You just can't keep that up all the time. So that's what I'm hearing you say very, very clearly, and I appreciate the way you communicated.
The questionagain, I keep asking the draft question. Would you all like to comment on that?
Lieutenant TRIBBLE. Sir, if I may, I think the draft would be a very bad idea. As the previous panel sort of touched on, if you get somebody that does not want to be there, they aren't going to do a good job. From an officer's side of the house, they talk aboutin school they tell you 10 percent of your people will take up 90 percent of your time, your problem children, if you will. You work with them. You try and do what you can, but if you haveI think, sir, if we have a draft, you will have more people who do not want to be there, who possibly would not meet the requirements you would normally ask for and who might intentionally become problems trying to get out of the military service they don't want to be in.
Mr. HAYES. OK. Lieutenant Tribble, you also said, though, a minute ago that we need some of the 4-year people.
Lieutenant TRIBBLE. Excuse me?
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Mr. HAYES. I think II wrote downI think you said we need the 4-year people as well as the career folks. Did I write that down under the wrong
Lieutenant TRIBBLE. I agree, sir, we do need your deck seaman to go chip paint and everything else that they do, but I don't think the draft is the answer.
Captain GOMILLION. Sir, I have a couple of thoughts. One is, I think, as most of us would articulate, that the real answer is to solve the problems with those that are in. The NCOs did a really good job, I think, of pointing that out, but I tell you, there is a big part of me, having gone through the training and experience I have in the military and what it has afforded me in terms of character development and in terms of professionalism and in terms of shaping an attitude toward my fellow man that I think would be beneficial for all.
So I would say in a small No. 1 that I think if we can fix the problems and not do the draft, that's the answer, but, unfortunatelythis is a little bit of a canned statement that I wrote out back there, but unfortunately our generation and those following us are extremely selfish, and I would acknowledge that. I think that's the state of our society and our generation today. We've forgotten what it means to serve anything besides ourselves. In my opinion the military and our nation as a whole would benefit greatly by extendingby instilling a sense of selflessness in tomorrow's military and civilian leaders.
So if we can't fix the problem, I love the idea of a draft. I love the idea of being able to look somebody in the eye and say, you know, I know if I'm theif I'm the ship's supervisor at a company, I know that you have some idea of what loyalty and serving something greater than yourself is, that you have an inkling of integrity or understanding of what that is so when you choose not to exercise that I can dismiss you in good conscious. I like that idea. I realize it creates challenges for us, but I like the thought of having that common bond in our society.
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So a small No. 1 would be let's fix the problem, but No. 2 would be, if we can't, I like the draft, but I'm just one Air Force officer so
Mr. HAYES. I appreciate your comments about servanthood and that's why you're thinking about ministry.
Captain GOMILLION. Sir, we're all ministers.
Captain TIBBS. Excuse me, sir. To follow up on that comment, I'm maybe not in support of the draft but definitely an exposure, and whether that beyou know, and it's costly no matter what you do, but I go back to my hometown community and no one knows the military outside of what I tell them literally, and what they see on the media is not always positive.
I was at a Super Bowl party, for example, when they aired the ''60 Minutes'' promo of spousal abuse in the military and so on and so forth, and I answered the next 10 to 15 minutes on how could this possibly be happening in our Department of Defense, and it really infuriated me that people were getting their perception of the Department of Defense as a whole from some news thing, and that upset me.
So if youif you could come up with anot a draft but some type of exposure beyond what they hear or see from the recruiter, I think that would be invaluable.
Captain BUTLER. I would like to say in the event that was to happen, if there were some kind of controls in place to ensure that we gotwe receive quality soldiers, and what I mean is, at some point in time over my years of being in the military I have come across soldiers who were told in front of a judge that either you're going to jail or you're going into the military, and I'm not too sure where that programor how that came about, but those individuals would come into the military and we would in essence inherit a problem. So at the same time you may get those same kind of individuals from having a draft as well, but if there were some type of controls in place to eliminate those problems, then I don't think it would be a bad thing.
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Captain STEADMAN. Sir, I would like to comment. Right now as far as the draft is concerned, I wouldn't go for it. I have to agree with Lt. Tribble on that point. I think we have made a transition from the early 1970's, when the draft ended and to the Vietnam era, that a history of a draft is pretty not well known for those that would be in the draftable age, between 18 and 35. Most of them would be the 18- to 20-year-olds they would draft right away, filling the billets that they need, the people that would actually be going into combat. I think the move toward a professional force is the way to go to get the volunteers to come in, to find what will get the people to come into the military rather than drafting them.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you very much.
Captain Butler, my father gave me a choice, go into the military or go to the Citadel. I chose the Citadel.
I believe there isI think there is a strong consensus on the Armed Services Committee to solve this with the all-volunteer force and to maintain the Selective Service System, and I think that's what we're going to continue to do at this point.
Let me now yield to Mr. Larson.
Mr. LARSON. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I just wanted to say to Lieutenant Armstrong and Captain Butler that one of my former students, who is married and justI believe was just appointed to lieutenant colonel down at Fort Bragg, Mary Ann Briggs was her maiden name, and I will find outher married name, and I wish you would extend my very best to her.
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And to Captain Steadman, look forward to having a cup of Rhode Island clam chowder down at the Olympia Tea House in Westerly, Rhode Island when youwhen you get back.
And I just ask what I had asked the previous group of individuals that were here, especially as it relates to family life, what is your impression of child-care services, et cetera, within the armed services? Is that a problem? Is that a problem for the people that serve under you? Is it a problem for you professionally in terms of quality thatand the availability and affordability of care?
Captain GOMILLION. Sir, if I could touch on base housing, I've been at two different bases and I've seen the housing, and I think it's safe to say that in the Air Force, I guess if you had to put it in a category, it would be barely adequate. A lot of people tend to migrate off base, and theythey live in a low cost or average cost-of-living area, and, of course, the mad rush is on to live on base in a high cost of living.
I think in the Air Force, as far as child care and education goes that that's pretty good right now.
Captain STEADMAN. Getting back to the child-care question, sir, I've got two little ones at home, and my wife goes to school full time at the community college. Right now we utilize one of our neighbors to provide child care for them. If we had the opportunity to send them to one of the military bases near where we live here in the area that provide, you know, outstanding care, theI think Staff Sergeant Carter brought it up, something that went beyond, you know, giving them educational opportunities, helping them with their ABCs, I would jump at that in a heartbeat, and I'm sure any Marines that do have children would do that also.
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Captain GOMILLION. Sir, when my wife was not able to be home, we utilized base day-care when we had an opportunity, and in terms of regulated day-care, I thought they gave great attention to the children and they were really nurturing, almost to excess at times, but like I think we all share the opinion that more education even at the younger ages would bewould be preferable.
Lieutenant GRACE. Sir, I had one more comment to make. This is more along the lines of me thinking ahead to the future of maybe starting a family some day. One of the things that officers do is travel every two to 3 years, you know, in addition to the deployments. So when you're picking up a spouse and a child every two to 3 years, your spouse never has a chance to really set roots into a job. That's weighing heavily on my mind right now, do I want to get married and drag someone around and hope that she finds something, and basically that's what you do, is hope that you find something.
Also, you know, do I want to have a family and then the first year or so that I have a child, or maybe a year down the road, and then, oh, got to go to Korea, just wave goodbye to your newborn baby for a year, and that doesn't sound very appealing either. So those are two big factors right now as far as quality of life that are on my mind.
Captain BUTLER. Sir, mycurrently we have two children, one and two, and it's a challenge inin the house to keep my wife in a position where she's comfortable day in and day out being home with the kids, but she enjoys that and she loves them, but I'm fortunate in that my in-laws have retired at Fort Hood and so it's easy for us to say, OK, we want a break from the kids and take them to my in-laws. However, the system on post is such that Forth Hood is so large that the day-care facility there is not large enough to take in all the children, not to mention, you know, the cost and everything that is associated with it. So you have a lot of private sector day-cares that are out there that are not necessarily adequate, don't treat your children the way that you would like for them to be treated, and you have problems withactually, like you were saying before, it does cause stress at home.
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Also along those lines, there is not enough adequate housing there. The housing is to standard, but there is not enough. So it forces you to live on the economy, and as such you end up paying $150 to $200 a month out of your pocket for utilities and things of that nature. So those are some of the issues that are a concern associated with that.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Kuykendall.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Well, I've got three or four different things. One is it appears from all of your comments you're all talking about the amount of hours you put in in your day and then you look at what your next two jobs are going to be and you don't see it getting better. You just see it getting different rank and in fact getting worse in some cases because of the hours you're going put in and so people say why do I want to do that. Well, I guess it used to be the reason they wanted to do that was because, you know, we had the evil empire to defeat or we had a war going on that we had to win.
I think one of the concerns that I haveand you all seem to be replicating itis that we've so badly diluted what the military's purpose is by a very high tempo of operationsand it's whether it's dealing with floods in Bangladesh or Hurricane Mitch or a typhoon that runs across the bottom of Florida or, oh, by the way, you know, kicking Saddam's head in when he needs that done, and everything in betweenthat now you just see yourself with long hours and not really knowing, well, what is the purpose for putting them in.
Ithat's what I interpret, and maybe what we need to be looking at from a policy perspectiveand if you have any other thoughts, I would like you to comment on thisis putting more focus to what we use an armed force for. Do we use it for armed force and to impose a wish that we can't get through negotiation, if that's the case, or do we use it for other things? That's a political question, and you may want to duck it, but if you got any thought about that, I would like to hear your comments on that one.
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The other one I thinkit appears to me from what you, as well as some of the NCOs, have said is that an inability to have adequate operations and maintenance funding which will buy parts for your buses or spare parts for aircraft that one of the airmen mentioned, those kinds of things compound the bad work conditions because if you're the mechanic fixing the airplane, and instead of taking the part off the shelf and putting it in and the job is done, you have to go find an airplane and cannibalize it, take it off of an airplane, put it on an airplane, wait until one gets on the shelf, take it off the shelf, put it on the airplane, take the one back, put it back on the airplane and, oh, by the way, I still only have two airplanes, one of which wasn't flying part of the time. I assume that's what we're getting at here. I mean, we can get a lot more bang for our buck and give you guys a lot better working conditionsor living conditions if we just let you do the job once instead of three times to get one plane back and the same thing would apply. So that kind of an issue, if you have anything specific or any other things about thatyou each have a little different kind of mission that you playI would be interested in hearing any comments on that.
Lieutenant ARMSTRONG. Sir, I have a comment on that. My father-in-law stays with us. He's a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force, and he did a lot of 12-hour-on-and-off shifts during the Cold War flying for Strategic Air Command [SAC], and when I come home at night at 2000 and I leaveyou know, I leave when it's dark and I come home when it's dark, and he says, ''Wow, what are you guys doing out there that's requiring so much time and effort?'' He goes, ''When the Cold War was at its peak and we were flying sorties, you know, up in Alaska, we were working 12-hour shifts and I thought that was reallyyou know, really, really difficult and here you're working 14 hours. What are you doing?''
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I said, ''Power Point.''
And he said, ''What is Power Point?''
Captain BUTLER. I would like to address thethe readiness from a maintenance perspective. I was stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and I was a maintenance officer for the third squadron, Second Army Calvary Regimen. In doing so, there came a time when we supposed to deploy to the National Training Center [NTC], and because of the shrinking budgets from the military year in and year out, it gets to the point where each year right around that fourth-quarter period we are managing dollars down to the penny to the point where you cannot order deadline deficiency parts. You can order them, but only inyou have to go through the comptroller, through all of these different channels to ensure that we are doing the right thing to purchase parts because we don't want to spend all of our money.
The problems associated with that are that you have soldiers who take ownership in the vehicles in which they are expected to go to combat in, and in doing so, they're there identifying the deficiencies and the shortcomings of those vehicles only to be told that we cannot buy that part or put that part on that vehicle because we don't have any money. However, at the same time we are supposed to be prepared to deploy at a moment's notice to close with and do battle with the enemy, and it's really demoralizing, and it tears away at their morale as far as what they do on a daily basis, and there is nothing different from where I'm at now and what we see in the third and fourth quarter of every year for the past 6 years that I've been in the Army.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. You know, before the others comment on it, you touched upon one point, this point of if we deploy you and say, oh, by the way, we're going to send half a million men to the Persian Gulf and we have a war fight, that's one kind of unexpected deployment. Whether you're in the National Guard or the Reserves or the active forces, you accept that order because that's why you're in the military, but when we say, oh, by the way, we're going to send a few of you to Honduras to fix bridges or we're going to send a few of you to Bosnia to build bridges, we're going to send a few of you to wherever, next stop, and none of those missions are the ones you've trained for and that's causing this time away from home and this unusual activity, I mean, is that building some resentment?
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I'm trying to interpret your actions rather than having you tell me directly.
Lieutenant GRACE. It just seems like we're rescuing every country in the world at our own expense.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. And I guess you don't mind doing it if there is enough of you to do it?
Lieutenant GRACE. That's correct, and are funded appropriately.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Yeah, and funded. I mean, that goes hand in hand.
Anybody else have any comments on that?
Captain GOMILLION. Sir, I would just add, on the equipment issue, as engineers, we don't have a lot necessarily to maintain within the expeditionary Air Force concept, but the funding affects us in a little bit different way. Our war-fighting skills differ somewhat significantly from what we do day to day in the Air Force, and the funding has affected us to the point that ourjust an example, our heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician, we are not authorized on our table of allowances the environmental control units that they're responsible for during wartime. We're not even authorized to possess or train on those at the base level.
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So once every 2 years if you're a core member of theI don't want to get into all the Air Force weeds, but if you're a core member of the mobility team, you get sent to Florida to train on it. So they get trained once every 2 years on a piece of equipment that they're responsible for making operate during war. That's a little disturbing.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Captain Tibbs, you started to say something.
Captain TIBBS. Yes, sir, and it goes back to your technical proficiency question as far as accepting other missions and assignments, armed combat, so to speak, and being currently on a staff position, I'm kind of speaking out of my area of expertise, but I know it's a concern when people are going down to Honduras to build bridges and so on and so forth. Yes, you're sending combat engineer Marines, so to speak, but we're being asked to do things that we might not be asked to do in a combat environment, and there is a fear there that that's eroding combat capability.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Do you think the fear is justified?
Captain TIBBS. From my limited exposure, yes, sir.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. Thank you very much.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Pickett.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I think our panel here has been most forthcoming and helpful and the previous questioners have been so perfect in their questions, I don't have any to ask. Thank you very much.
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Mr. BUYER. I just have two quick comments. No. 1, Lieutenant Armstrong, you opened up and addressed the point about advertising that's being done with a focus toward benefits, i.e., education. I have stressed over and over, I just want you to know, to the services that what I find is that why people stay in the military and those who actuallywhy you serve, a lot has to do with the intangibles. It's not for the pay. It's not what you're getting out of it. It's your service to country. It's your duty. It's the honor. It's the service, and the Marine Corps is the best in your advertising, and it focuses on the intangibles and trying to getand the Navy has now picked up on that too, talking about honor, courage, commitment. So I hear what you're saying, and we're trying to get the services to go to that, and I remember the most in the Gulf you had people that were thereI can remember being there and they were complaining, saying, well, I signed up to go to college, I didn't sign up for this. I wanted to knock them upside the head.
The other point is, Colonel Kelly, it's a compliment to you, but all the Marines have come in and talked about base housing today. So I want to let you know there that we caught that, OK?
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. There have been no complaints about base housing in Hawaii.
Mr. BUYER. But it is all a matter of perspective. To have Lieutenant Grace complain about Air Force housing, the Marines would love to get out of their tent into Air Force housing, I'm sure, but you make me cringe when you complain about substandard housing in the Air Force.
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Housing is a tremendous issue, and it's a concern that the committee has, and there is some gamesmanship that's been going on. The budget that's been sent over to us in our Military Construction [MILCON] budget is wholly inadequate, but you have to remember, we don't want to give the president right now hisanother round of Base Realignment and Closure [BRAC] so there is stuff that's going on out there, but the housing, Colonel Kelly, it's been heard again. You briefed it well, perhaps.
If anyone else has any other comments to makeagain, like I've thanked all other panels, I really appreciate your service and your contribution here. Thank you. Godspeed to you.
Our next panel, I'm going to let you introduce yourself as you are recognized, and we'll try toto speed this up since I'm running behind, but we are going to take adequate time with each of you, and thank you for your patience. You've been very kind, and I know a lot of you have been here since the beginning and have sat through a lot of this, but our fourth panel here today will deal with the spouses of service members.
We'll begin with you, Mr. Linwood Stewart, spouse of the United States Army.
STATEMENT OF LINWOOD STEWART
Mr. STEWART. My name is Linwood Stewart. I'm originally from Georgia, but we are currently stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We have two kids, two boys, a 15-year-old and 11-year-old. We're glad to be here. I'm certainly glad to be here to be finally heard after being 14 years a family member and never having had the opportunity to be heard to voice my opinion on how we are being treated as a whole family, toward the soldier as well as the family member.
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My primary concern and opinion as far as maintaining soldiers in the military, to benefit not only the soldier but for my family, I think is family stability, as we've heard before, and family security, as well as financial, and what I want to discuss in reference to family stability is, soldiers are being deployed a whole lot as of late, and we all know that. Me being an ex-military person, I understand that and accept that, and I accepted that when I agreed to the marriage. I knew we were going to have to go through that, but I think we need to think through the deployment stations where they're being deployed, the reasons, because through rumor control I see and hear soldiers, whether it's subordinates or peers or superiors, that are being deployed to areas and when they get to the area, they're twiddlingtwiddling their thumbs, and to me, I would rather for my wife to be twiddling her thumbs there at home with me and the kids than to be twiddling her thumbs in the desert.
Through Permanent Change of Station [PCS]ing, throughon the officer's side of the house, I know a lot of officers have to PCS to try to get thatas we heard before, that next check mark for their career, and I think they're going and moving station to station too often, and I can speak for the Army, and I know they're being shuffled a whole lot.
And to get to family stability, I mean, a family with financial security, I agree withand I've been talking about this for a long timethere should have been some type of savings plan or 401k plan for military members, for those to have a betteror maintain or have a even better life after retirement or just exiting the military, at least some type of savings plan, and it makes a family member feel better throughout the anxiety of being shuffled a whole lot, sacrificing their career for the service member to support the family member. I mean the soldier, and I think that's very important, and I think a family member will see that it's well worth it to see that there is some type of plan after military life that they can depend upon. Therefore, I think the TSP plan, if it's well-structured and well-planned, iswill be a good program.
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And to lead to another thing is, I think there should be a better education program for the family members. Throughout the different moves that we've been through, I finished my degree, but it wasn't easy being that my wife was deployed, but if I would have had some other supportI work, and it was tough, but I think my wife makes a decent salary to help us, but there are some soldiers who do not make that, and we are blessed or we have been blessed to where it has worked for us, but I know that there are soldiers out there and spouses out there who have not and probably will not have the opportunity that we have, and I think there should be an increase in the education plan for family members, not only the spouse but for the children.
I just want to say thank you for having me, the opportunity to be here to be heard.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Stewart.
Next we'll hear from Mrs. Leljedal.
STATEMENT OF MARLEA LELJEDAL
Mrs. LELJEDAL. That's correct. Good afternoon. I'm Marlea Leljedal. I'm from Hayes, Virginia, and I'm the wife of an Army captain currently stationed in Fort Eustis, Virginia. We have no children. My husband at this point, though, has gotten to a point where he's starting to vacillate on whether to stay in or get out.
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When we got married, I quit my job after 11 years of professional work. We got married and immediately relocated to Germany. We were there for a couple of years, and now that we're back, he's moved two times. We've only been married for 4 years and we've done four moves in the 4 years. So I have become
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. How many years is he in?
Mrs. LELJEDAL. Nine. So I have become kind of dependent on the Army, and sincegiven the situation, my husband has gotten concerned with the retirement and the security. I think someone else mentioned that it does change over the years. He would like to know that there is one plan and it's acceptable and it's secure through his career, I guess.
And the other thing is, he had mentioned OPSTEMPO. I didn't know what that was until yesterday, but he seems to have some grave concerns about it, and I understand them. He is in the Army because he wants to be, certainly not for the money. It's something he has known he has wanted to do since he was a child, and I think he's being torn and his hands tied in certain instances, which frustrates him, which has led him to thinking about getting out. I don't encourage him either way. I just support his decision. The Army has certainly been good to us, but I would like to see him a little happier. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Mrs. Harris.
STATEMENT OF JULIE ANN HARRIS
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Mrs. HARRIS. Good afternoon, and thank you for traveling so far to hear us speak. My name is Julie Ann Harris. I am the spouse of Machinist's Mate Second Class Larry D. (''Dean'') Harris, who is deployed currently on the USS Enterprise. He works in the reactor department. Dean's initial enlistment was for 6 years. However, he did reenlist prior to his first deployment to the Med aboutin 1995. So currently in April he will reach his 6-year point, and we are at least enlisted until the year 2002.
Presently we are undecided as to whether or not he will make this a career, and it is a family decision. We do not have any children. I take care of two cats at home myself. I do work out of the home, both a full- and part-time job, and the part-time job mainly to keep myself busy while he is deployed.
Some of the factors that weigh on our decisionand he and I just spoke a couple of days ago about this while he was in Francethe rate of advancement, it is terribly difficult for my spouse to advance in his rate in the department that he is. Although he is one of the more senior enlisted people in his department, he is finding it difficult to advance at the rate that is probably acceptable to his expectations. He has a lot of personal goals and would like to be advanced to first class, and if that happens, we will more than likely make the Navy life-style a career for us.
Another factor are our family plans. As I said, we right now don't have any children, but depending on his deployment cycle and the possibility of him, No. 1, being present at the birth of our child and the subsequent hand in raising a child or children would depend on whether or not we were able to stay in.
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And the third is the basic pay rate and the Selective Retention Bonus [SRBs]. I am very lucky my husband is eligible for the SRBs that are entitled to him if he chooses to enlist, and we have taken advantage of those and used them as sort of our blanket protection as a savings since there is nothing available to us right now.
The employment schedule that we endure is difficult, but do not get me wrong, I knew what I was getting into when I married him, which was just 2 years ago. However, I support my husband, and if I did not support him, his personal readiness would be affected.
I work outside of the home asfor a contractor for the Navy, in the Navy Family Service Center in Newport News, and I have a firsthand knowledge of what goes on with these families, the E1s and the E2s that come in and don't have a clue as to what they're getting into, and I am also able to correspond with officers of the Navy and in helping them get a handle on what is affecting the sailors today. Thank you very much.
Mr. BUYER. Mrs. Lynch.
STATEMENT OF KELLIE LYNCH
Mrs. LYNCH. Hi. My name is Kellie Lynch. I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My husband is a junior officer on a submarine. He's been in for 12 years, 3 years as an enlisted, 4 years at ROTC and then the past 5 years as an officer. We have two children. Mariah is five and-a-half and Benjamin is almost three. My husband is undecided. However, I have decided that I want him to get out, and even though the Navy has great security and we're at Little Creek housing and we really love our housing, and I have a lot of pride in my husband and what he does, and I think he's really an awesome guy, but, you know, we expected the deployments and we even expected the underways, but it's the thingthe day-to-day work that's killing us. I mean, he works 12 to 14 hours every day, plus his duties days once or twice a week, and we never see him and we miss him, and my kids miss Daddy, and that's why I want him to get out.
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Another reason I think I wanted to address, Congressman Kuykendall, you touched on it before, one of my husband's old department heads once said we don't have an enemy, the enemy is across the pier, and that's something that seems a lotthat the people above my husband seem soit's so important to get an above average on the orders or to try to get that badly that they're not concerned about the quality of life, and that concerns me a lot. It seems whenever they bring up quality-of-life issues to them they don't care or they schedule bowling in the afternoon for the officers whenever the officers would like to either go get their work done or go home.
Another thing is, my husband, as I said, isI'm proud of him. He does a good job and he works very hard, and it seems he gets punished for that because he's the one that will do a good job. The guy who will, you know, sort of slack off, he gets sent home and my husband gets called in to do the work, and that's why I want him to get out. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Mrs. Hackett.
STATEMENT OF APRIL HACKETT
Mrs. HACKETT. My name is April Hackett. I have been married to a master sergeant that's assigned to the 71st Fighter Squadron. We've been in the military for a long time. In fact, I'm surprised you wanted to talk to me because we're over retirement. We have two children. One is 11, the other is eight. And he is gone a long time. He justhe was over in Saudi in November when the last incident occurred, in which case they delayed him coming home. That was particularly hard for all of us to handle, and he finally got home just before Christmas. Then the squadron turned around and had two more TDYs scheduled for January. He just came back this past week. The other one came back after 2 weeks. Now they have another one. My husband is due to go out again on Wednesday. He's probably going to be gone for close to a month. After that they're already talking about still another TDY coming up and then we have to deal to Saudi again. It's too much. It's too much. We don't see him. When he's here, he's working 14 hours. He's working weekends. He's working whenever. If they have a special problem, he's the one they call. He has to go in and deal with it. They don't know. They don't understand sometimes, but we deal with it.
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Something he told me last night that surprised meI hadn't thought about ithe said the kids and I have our own lives and it's built around so much that it's like he's an interloper because he can't stay here long enough to integrate himself back into the family, and I think that we need to do something about that.
We've traveled all over. We've been overseas. We've been from one end of this country to the other, from one base to the other. There are a lot of problems. I don't see how they're going to fix them all. More than likely we will get out probably within this year. His superiors are trying their best to keep him in. They want him to stay. We're waiting for information on whether we're going to be transferred. We're hoping, because my health is not good here. If the transfer doesn't come through, we are going to get out, and the Air Force is going to lose somebody that is very valuable. We'll have to see. Thank you.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mrs. Hackett.
STATEMENT OF KASI NELSON
Mrs. NELSON. Hi. My name is Kasi Nelson, and I'm from the beautiful state of Idaho. I'm married to Justin Nelson, who is a senior airman in the Air Force. We've been stationed here at Langley Air Force Base for about a year- and-a-half. Before, previously we were stationed in Florida. He likes his job. I enjoy being a military wife. I work for USA Auto Insurance so I deal with the militarythat's my businessevery day. I talk with the military. I deal with the military and I go home to the military. I don't mind the military life at all.
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My husband is presently undecided. He gets out in a year. In January 2000 is when he decides. He actually decides in a month whether he's going to reenlist. My main concern is money. The only way to compensate my husband for what he does is by giving him more money. Unfortunately, we're at a lower level of being enlisted than most folks are. We're a senior airman, which is just a touch above making that decision whether or not to join or not, and the only way to compensate him for the job that he's donedoes is by giving him more money.
It's hard when I work at a job where I've been there for 9 months and I've had nosix months and I've had no previous education in insurance, and in fact my education is wildlife conservation and water conservation, which has nothing to do with insurance. My husband has been in a job for almost 4 years and I make more than he does. That's a little frustrating for someone that has been in a job for 4 years and has the training that he does.
The things that are frustrating to me is, we've been on the military base housing list for 4 years. We're still number 82. We're expecting our first child in 3 weeks. Another frustrating thing is the child care that they offer us is between a 6-month to a year wait. Those particular things aren't real great for us.
As far as the child care goes, it's an excellent program most of the time on base. Of course, it's not what I see at USAA with our child development center [CDC]. We don't get the education that my work provides. Of course, it's twice as much to go to my work than it is to actually put a child on base.
A couple other things. As far as health care goes, I've had great health care. Throughout my whole pregnancy I have not seen the same person twice. That's a little frustrating because I'm going to deliver a baby in 3 weeks and I have no idea who is going to be in my delivery room, whether it's a midwife or an ob-gyn. You see someone different every time you go to the military hospital.
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Mr. BUYER. What region are you?
Mrs. NELSON. We're here in Virginia, Mid-Atlantic, so I think it's still TRICARE Prime. So I'munless there is a problem, I am not allowed to CHAMPUS out, which means go off base and find my own doctor. So I don't see the same person every single time I go, and although I really like everybody that I see, when you're having your first child and your mother is 2000 miles away in Idaho, you tend to get a little nervous when it comes time to who is going to be in the room for you, those things like that.
One of the other major reasons why my husband is really undecided is, he fuels jets, and that's not something he wants to do for the rest of his life. If it was an option for him to cross-train into an area that he would like to in the Air Force, that would possibly be an incentive for him to stay in. Unfortunately, through speaking with his superior officers and through his chain of command, that's not available for him right now, to cross-train into other areas that he would be interested in. So at this point he is considering why stay. He can get out, get an education and do what he wants to do, get the pay that he thinks he deserves to be paid. You know, we would be giving up a lot, because, like I said, we both enjoy the military.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF LISA NASSAR
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Mrs. NASSAR. My name is Lisa Nassar, and I am originally from Dallas, Texas. I'm married to Staff Sgt. Merlin Nassar in the United States Marine Corps. We are very happy with our lives in the Marine Corps. There are issues of pay, which I think we have proven that today. I don't know anybody who works in a job who couldn't stand a better raise.
My main concern is TRICARE and education in our schools that are on these bases. TRICARE is just a mess. It is just unspeakable. Like she said, you never see the same doctor twice. If you'reif you can get an appointment, you're very fortunate. You have to deal with doctors who basically I don't think are capable of doing what they're doing. They are not trained. They misdiagnose patients daily. They're giving medications that shouldn't be given. So, I mean, there are just numerous problems with the whole entire program.
As far as education goes and our school bases, as a future schoolteacher, it is pitiful. We've got great teachers. We have run-down schools. We have these teachers working the best that they can with what they've got, which is very limited funds, very limited school books. My daughter is a third grader, has to share a book with her partner in her classroom. So when they do their homework, one gets it one night and the other gets it the next night. That's wrong. So we're not teaching our children anything.
I have originally discussed with Mr. Larson the problems with child development centers. A few years back they changed over to the National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC] curriculum, and this is a curriculum that is teaching our children nothing. They're taking it out of the hands and saying you can't teach these children ABCs because that's not how they're going to learn it. We're going to set up these centers and you're going to work these centers, and you might learn from that. Therefore, we're passing them from preschool in a child development center on to kindergarten and they've learned nothing.
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Mr. BUYER. This is within the DOD system?
Mrs. NASSAR. Within the DOD system. So you've got kindergarten teachers who are dealing with children who are not capablereally, they weren't prepared enough to be in kindergarten, and that is a big concern for me because we're raising these children.
So as a parent, if you're fortunate enough to have the time, you're having to make up for this loss, which is what we've done with our child. We have taught her things that she's not learning, you know, prior to kindergarten to keep her on the level so that asbeing military, when we move, if we don't put her in another DOD school and we put her in a public system, we hope she is on line with these kids and able to pick up where she was and to be at a level that she's not considered special ed or something. So that
Mr. PICKETT. Could I ask a question? Are you saying that your children are in a DOD school now?
Mrs. NASSAR. I'm sorry. I didn't hear you.
Mr. PICKETT. Your children are in a DOD school now?
Mrs. NASSAR. Yes. We live at New River Air Station in Camp Lejeune, two different bases, but in Jacksonville, and she attends the elementary school there at the air station.
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Mr. PICKETT. That's something, Mr. Chairman, we have jurisdiction over, the Section 6 rule?
Mr. BUYER. Yes.
Mrs. NASSAR. As far as her teachers, they are wonderful teachers. They're willing and they're doing what they can do with very limited funds. I mean, theyyou know, it's pretty sad when we try to send home homework or teach these children when they don't have adequate books, adequate media centers and gifted programs, and, you know, you can'tand a special ed program that is being pulled, basically. We've got children who are readingyou know, third graders reading at first-grade levels, that they are being forced out of these special ed programs because there is no money for them.
Mr. BUYER. Mr. Pickett, this issue comes under the Readiness Committee, I'm informed. We have professional military education.
Mr. PICKETT. I mean the Armed Services Committee has jurisdiction over the school that she's describing?
Mr. BUYER. Yes. I thought you meant this community here.
Mr. PICKETT. No, no. The Armed Services Committee has jurisdiction over the school she's describing.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. NASSAR. And, you know, the staff sergeant thatStaff Sergeant Carter that was here a panel or two ago had said that, you know, her being a single parent, having her children in the child development center limited to 10 hours, that's wrong, because she is a single parent. My daughter did go to child development centers in Albany, Georgia, and if there was a time when I worked and my husband was away somewhere and I couldn't get to her, I was charged for being 5 minutes late. There is no flexibility, and these 10-hour rules are supposedly made because they say if a child spends more than 10 hours in a development center they're not getting proper loving and caring that they so need. I am a home day-care provider. I do before- and after-school care. Prior to that I did infant and toddler care. I taught these children, two- and 3-year-olds. They left my house learning their shapes, their colors, identifying animals, I mean, whatever it took so that when they hit preschool or kindergarten that they had somesome kind of concept of what they were supposed to sobut we love the Marine Corps. We're lifers.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MARY ANN McCRAY
Mrs. MCCRAY. Good afternoon, and I would like to thank the subcommittee for coming to Norfolk. I'm honored to be here and at the same time am scared half to death, so please. My name is Bambi McCray, and I'm originally from Charleston, West Virginia. My husband is a career Marine, and he is stationed at Cherry Point, and we live in New Bern, North Carolina. I work for Boston University at Cherry Point and have done this for 18 years. Kevin and I made a conscious decision years ago that he would move, I would stay. I realize that there is no value that can be placed on a human life, but I do think to increase the pay significantly would help with the retention situation. I also feel very strongly that it would attract more quality people because they would say, well, in the Marine Corps I can make X amount of dollars, which is comparable to someone with IBM or Texas Instruments or some other large corporation, and you can tell I'm nervous.
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I would like to ask your support, as far as this subcommittee, to go back to the Military Affairs Committee and to the other House and Senate members. Many times military people feel that because there are less and less people in Congress who have a military background that the support for the military and for their families is not there, and sometimes that carries over into our communities also. Many times we feel that the communities want the paycheck and don't care about the individual.
As far as education goes, because of my job, I am for the passing of VA education benefits to family members. I have not a large number of enlisted personnel in the programs that Boston University offers, but I have some, and prior to my coming to this meeting I asked them what would it take for them to stay in the military. One very, very sharp staff sergeant said if the package that is proposed was passed, he would definitely reenlist.
I also think that tuition assistanceas the military has it now, it's capped at $3,500 per fiscal yearshould be raised, and I also think that for E5s and below, or possibly even E6s and below, to have 90 percent of their tuition covered for graduate work would be an incentive.
I would also encourage more schools to offer programs, be it via Internet or be it on ship. There are some schools who do have a deployment program specifically designed for those units when they are out to sea.
I do realize that the DOD school system on the whole has a good reputation, but I also think that there are some inadequacies in transferring from one school system to another, be it DOD school to DOD school or DOD to the public school system.
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Housing is also an issue. There is much substandard housing in the Marine Corps, and I can only speak to my affiliation with the Marine Corps. At Cherry Point there is a place called Slocum Slums because it is lower enlisted housing, and it is like living in a project. Years ago in West Virginia I did social work and I would say that some of the housing projects in West Virginia were better than what Slocum Village and Fort Macon are as far as the lower enlisted ranks at Cherry Point.
I think oursome of our problems have to do with our manning level, and I think this has been addressed by every panel previous to this. Because of the cuts, we have expected fewer people to do more with less. Pay has been a problem since 1781 because George Washington even wanted more pay for his troops, and you can, I'll say, find that.
One thing the Marine Corps does that I firmly believe in is, they have a program called Family Team Building, and as part of that there is a program called LINKS, L-I-N-K-S. LINKS stands for Life-style, Insight, Networking, Knowledge and Skills. I feel that every commanding officer, every executive officer, and every sergeant major should go through this course or at least through the greater part of it because you do learn not only history of the Marine Corps, but you learn some things about moving. You learn some things about the services that are available on base, and you learn to look out for each other. You take care of each other.
The Marine Corps has prided itself on taking care of each other, and asand I've been referred to as a senior spouse because Kevin has been in the Marine Corps 21 years. Obviously, he's a career Marine, but I feel that if we take care of the younger spouses, the more junior spouses, the 18-, 19-, 20-year-old spouses, give them as much information as they can have so as to cope with all the demands of Marine Corps life, that they will be better prepared. You hear it said that many good Marines get out because their spouse is not happy, and through the LINKS program and through the Key Volunteer Program, which is also part of the Marine Corps Family Team Building, hopefully the spouses can gain the skills and the strength to stay with their spouse through their Marine Corps career or through 4 years of enlistment.
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There is a term called sink or swim, or I should say a saying called sink or swim. I'm not going to sink. I'm going to swim, and if I can help someone also to not sink, I'm going to do that.
I think the Marine Corps should have a bigger part of the DOD budget because for years they've prided themselves on doing more with less, and a lot of times they'll say they get stuff left over from the Air Force and they make it work, and I think our days of that are past and now we're into laser technology, and we've had some incidents with
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I thought you were scared.
Mrs. MCCRAY. I am. My husband will tell you, ''don't get her started.''
Mr. BUYER. Colonel Kelly briefed you well, too.
Mrs. MCCRAY. I am sorry, sir, but I don't know Mr. Kelly, but I think
Mr. BUYER. We do.
Mrs. MCCRAY. You do? OK, but I think with laser technology being in the forefront in our defenses that we need for the Marine Corps to have a bigger part of the budget so they don't do more with less because with laser technology you can't. And I'll entertain any questions, and thank you.
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Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mrs. McCray.
I recently attended the Marine Corps birthday ball, and I learned about the candor of a Marine Corps wife. They're very eager to tell me all types of things.
Let melet me thank all of you for coming. It was very important, I think, to have the fourth panel because when we think of training of the soldier and preparing him, I always think of the whole military family, and that's why I wanted to have the fourth panel and to hear directly from you for the benefit of the entire committee.
I have written downif there is one theme that goes constant, not only is it the paynot all of you mentioned retirementbut the two that came out the strongest to me from your testimony is the pay and the housing. I do want to mentionI want to ask the question about the spousal abuse question to you.
When I first came on Active Duty, I was a medical service corps officer at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and I worked on a project that dealt with abuses in the military, and not only was it child abuse and neglect, physical and sexual abuse, but also spousal abuse on this project to try to identify trend lines. So I'm very sensitive to ''60 Minutes'' coming out and saying, oh, OK, now this is all of a sudden an immediate problem. It has been a concern for years in the military, and the military has worked to address it because the stresses are very unique within the military and how they develop warriors and how they deal with those stresses when they come back home.
Page 151 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You are working withyou're running the family because the husbands and wives are gone a whole lot, and you're with the children a lot, and we're finding out that in fact there are difficulties when all of a sudden he comes home and maybe he wants to take over the discipline, yet you've been disciplining in a different way and there become struggles betweenbetween all of you. Would anyone like to comment about not only the ''60 Minutes'' piece but with the issue on spousal abuse with regard to the military?
Mrs. HARRIS. I would, please. I, too, watched ''60 Minutes'' after a Super Bowl party and I'm, too, an ombudsman for the Enterprise, which means I was appointed by the captain to act as a liaison between the families and the command, and I often get phone calls from spouses complaining about spousal abuse. I personally believe that this is an individual problem. I do not believe that the military perpetuates the problem. The military can help prevent and overcome the problem, but I do not believe that a deployment cycleMarine's readiness, you know, learning to fight in the field, is going to make him come home and want to beat the snot out of his kid.
I'm a real advocate of that because I know the Navy has programs to help sailors and Marines get through the times that they are feeling angry, whether it be at their spouse, whether it be at their job, and I don't know how anybody else feels about it, but I really sincerely believe that it is an individual problem and not a military problem.
Mr. BUYER. Mrs. Nassar.
Mrs. NASSAR. I agree with her fully. I think it's kind of easier just to say it's the military, that they're building these warriors so they're going home and taking it out on their families. That's not the case. My husband has been a Marine for 14 years. He has never lifted a hand to me or my child. I mean, thatyou know, and he goes through some intenseand I know he probably would like to slap the snot out of me sometimes, but that's not howthat's not how they are built, basically. I mean, these guys are trained. They're tired when they come home. He works 1512, 15 hours a day, and I work and I go to school full time, so we both are tired at the end of the day, and I just don't see whereit's kind of just too easy to blame it on the military and say that this is something thatwhat about what is happening out in the private sector? I mean, child abuse is child abuse and spousal abuseit's happening everywhere. So it's kind ofto me, it's a copout to say we're raisingbuilding these warriors and because we just instilled this fighting technique into them that they're going home and taking it out on the family. I disagree with that.
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Mr. BUYER. Mr. Abercrombie.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I had occasion when I wasMr. Chairman, just apropos to what your question was, I had occasion when I was in the state legislature to be the human services chair and first got acquainted, unfortunately, with this phenomenon of spouse abuse, and the military was way in advance in trying to deal with it compared with a lot of the civilian side, and I remember my conclusions there, as someone who was just being exposed to it then in a legislative way, was that I said this has virtually nothing to do with the military as such because if anything, the military was instilling discipline in people and so they were much more likely to try and deal with it. Now, you hadthe individuals who were engaged in it, engaged in spousal and child abuse, were fighting with psychological demons that, if anything, the military was helping to curb.
So we'll see wherethat doesn't mean that's it's not an issue that needs to be dealt with adequately by way of counseling and by way of recognition, but I wouldn't take anything ''60 Minutes'' or any other news organization has to say about anything too much to heart. They've been after me for 25 years.
Mrs. Harrisexcuse me, Mrs. NelsonI guess for the both of you, you heard these other panels talking about the promotion side, getting stuck in a certain grade kind of thing, and I think you used the phrase ''rated advancement,'' Mrs. Harris, is that correct? That's the equivalent of what I'm talking about, right, this flexibility thing? Do you see that asI don't want to get off too far in my own insight, but out of this hearing I'm concluding that that's one of the key issues here that we need to address, which is the question of whether people are going to be stuck in aat one level for a long, long time regardless of how good they are at their job and so on?
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Mrs. HARRIS. The training that Dean has received allows him to do things that I could not even imagine, and for him it's terribly frustrating to be one of the more senior people in his division or in his plant, nuclear power plant, and to see that he gets passed over for better quals, you know, qualifications, their reviewsI equate it to a review I would go throughwhen he has made it perfectly clear that he is more than willing to stay in the military. Yet they're giving these must promote ratings to people that have honestly said I don't even plan to stay in. It's very frustrating when you have junior sailors that are working their tails off in order to maintain the professionalism that they were taught through boot camp, through A school, and once they get to theiryou know, their working environment and they make a commitment to their job and to their senior enlisted and officers that they're willing to work hard and stay in the military, it's very discouraging when you get passed over for such promotions.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Thank you.
Mr. Stewart, we have a rare opportunity with you being here. Do youhave you had much exposure to other male spouses in the military, and the reason I ask that is that I'm looking to get, for the benefit of the committee, a little bit of insight into the question of women staying in the armed services, retention of women at all levels in the armed services, and I realize that's too much to go into in the brief time we have, but could you give us a brief summary, if you feel that you're qualified to do so, either on your personal experience and/or your observations about what could be done to see to it that those women who do choose the military would choose to stay?
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STEWART. I haven't experienced the majority of male spouse members. I know some female soldiers, their spouses are dual military. Therefore, I haven't interacted with a lot of malejust here and there through the duty stations, but it's tough forI know it's tough for a female family member, and it's even tougher for a male. You have to be very supportive of that female soldier. You have to be very flexible, and, yes, males were brought up to believe that they are the breadwinner, but you have to be flexible and realize thatand be very supportive of that person as a soldier. Yes, she's your wife, but you have to support her in every means.
Then if she is a field grademy wife is a field grade officer. Therefore, she has a lot of male subordinates, along with peers. Therefore, she has a lot of interaction with males. I know a lot of males bring a lot of jealousy and so forth, but you have to be very supportive of that and get rid of that male ego.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I understand that part about yourand I'm fully prepared to believe that you're not only capable but have done that. I'm a little bit more interested in the question of do you think that thisthat this can beare the armed services sustaining this new phenomenon, if you will? Do you think it's going to remaincan it be made something that women would seek to achieve in more than small numbers, based on your understanding of your wife's experience?
Mr. STEWART. From my wife's experiences, I don't think so. It'sit's tough.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So this goes back to the quality of the person, again, then, right?
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Mr. STEWART. Of course, the quality of the person, mentality of the person. You have to be tough, be competitive.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So if we're going to retain people of that quality, we have got to do the things we're talking about? Otherwise it's going to be lost, regardless of your good intentions or best efforts?
Mr. STEWART. That's right.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. One last thing, Mr. Chairman.
Mrs. Nelson, I was a little bit confusedmaybe other membersdid I understand you correctly that you never saw the same person twice, not one time during your pregnancy?
Mrs. NELSON. I've seenI've seen one midwife twice, Maj. Robinson. Other than that I've seen
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Do they account for that to you? I mean, is the turnover that great?
Mrs. NELSON. Well, I think basically it's how they're scheduled. You go in and they pick a time for them to see you, and if that particular time has a time slot with an ob-gyn there or
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Mr. ABERCROMBIE. So you're picked on the time slot rather than the physician?
Mrs. NELSON. You're definitely picked on a time slot, not a physician.
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. But that sounds to me like a policy thing as opposed to the TRICARE as such. I mean, that's just an asinine policy.
Mrs. NELSON. Well, it's the same at every base that I've been to, and everybody else that I've talked to
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. OK.
Mrs. NELSON. I would like to address one more question you had about the actual promotion. I think what we're getting into is, we're getting into
Mr. ABERCROMBIE. I had written down pay equity, by the way, next to your name, which is kind of an ironic reversal, right, because it's generally thought about pay equity for women, but the point you were making was you don't think your husband is getting equity?
Mrs. NELSON. Yes. I think one of the major things is, we're using the military as almost a form of another government welfare. We talk about welfare reform. Yet we allow troops like I saw up here before, gentlemen and women that are dedicated to the service and they want to stay but they're not getting paid enough to stay. You have the people that stay in and say, you know what, I've got five more years to hit my 20-year mark. All I have to do sit here and collect a paycheck. You have people like my husband who are dedicated 100 percent to do their job, to do it well, and to do it how they're told to do it. Yet, there is no incentive for them to stay in. Why should they stay in whenfor instance, myself, I get a performance appraisal every single year with a very healthy bonus that follows it. I'm not getting a promotion, but I'm getting paid based upon what they believethe work that I've done. That is not available for people in the military.
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I hear other branches of the military talk about bonuses. As an Air Force spouse, I have never seen that type of incentive for my husband, and what I'm really concerned with is, if we're talking about the quality of people that are defending our country, I would much rather see it be the quality of people that are going to give 110 percent instead of making it another form of welfare, make it another form of I'll join the military because I'm guaranteed a paycheck.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mrs. Nelson.
Mr. HAYES. Quickly, how were you all chosen? Was this punishment or reward?
Mrs. HACKETT. We have no idea.
Mrs. NASSAR. Actually, I welcome it. I think it's a perfect opportunity. It was supposed to be him, but somehow or another I ended up being on the panel, but it's fine. I've been a Marine Corps wife for tenI thinkwe've been married for over 10 years so there is a lot of issues that were brought up and a lot of it you deal with on a daily basis. Yes, pay is not enough. I have to work in order for us to just make monthly living expenses. We do live in base housing. We are one of the very fortunate that have very nice housing, but the junior enlisted housing at Camp Lejeune is pitiful, and when he was a corporal, we refused to live in it. I mean, there is no way I'm living in something that is barely holding up over my head.
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Mr. HAYES. Next question, do you think that we on the panel have at least a basic understanding of what you all are telling us? You very patiently sat through the previous three panels and your own. Do you feel like we have a basic understanding, and what would you suggest that we do not only to follow up on this discussion but to continue to make ourselves available and listen constructively for all ranks of the military to go forward?
Mrs. NASSAR. I think you need to come to Camp Lejeune and visit with the Marines, and I'm sure every other branch of the service feels the same, and see what it's really like. I mean, I'm sure most of you have been there in your military service, but it's different for everybody. We're all basically, you know, screaming the same thing, but it's still different in a way.
Mr. HAYES. Do you feel like we're at least on the right page with you?
Mrs. LYNCH. I justit seems to be a little bit different between the beginning enlisted and the officers. I know we frequently have the junior officers over for dinner, and we had a few of them over about a week ago, and the ones thatyou know, we have that nuclear continuation pay. They said if that was raised to $25,000, I still wouldn't stay in. You know. And obviously for a lot of them the pay is very important. I mean, we do get paid well, and if I didn't get paid well, I would be complaining about that, but for us it's really the amount of hours he works and there is not enough manpower to do the job.
Mrs. HACKETT. It's not just the manpower. It's the parts to keep the planes flying. He comes home so frustrated, having to go out and track down a part to fixto keep the airplanes flying, and when they go over to Saudi the nextthe plan they have for the next Saudi trip, they're going to take 15 airplanes. They're going to can out eight of them to keep the rest of them flying because they don't have enough parts to keep them all flying, and it just makes no sense.
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If you want the military to run, they need to come up with enough money to keep the parts for the different fields operating because you're frustrating your troops, trying to keepdo a good job and trying to keep everybody motivated, and it's very difficult.
Mr. HAYES. How about helping us help the press get the real message out to the public?
Mrs. HARRIS. Mr. Hayes, to answer your question, I think it's important for you all to maybe go to the troops. I had the great fortune of meeting Ms. Shelton, who is the spouse of our jointour Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and when we met, we ate down with the petty officers and the seamen on the deck, and she got down and she talked with these sailors and tried to get a feeling of what they were going through to understand their life-style. I think it's important for our leaders to see what our sailors and Marines and all these people go through.
Some of our Congressmen have never had any service at all, and I think they're sort of missing the boat as far as what our sailorsI'm sorry, all of our military forces are going through, and I think it's important thatI think it's great that you're talking to us, but talk to the military members as you did today, but at their commands to see what they're going through.
Mrs. HACKETT. Not just to the bigwigs. Come over to where we live, really see what we put up with.
Page 160 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ABERCROMBIE. Big shots like Col. Kelly.
Mrs. HACKETT. I liveI liveI see you guys' airplanes coming in landing. I live across from the runway, but I never see anybody. They're always talking to the generals, and they're always being shown around to what the generals want to show off. They don't see what is really going on with the guys that are on down the ladder.
Mr. BUYER. All right. Mrs. Hackett, you don't see any admirals or generals in here today, do you?
Mrs. HACKETT. No.
Mr. HAYES. I told Sergeant O'Hara that I would ask my wife, and she would be glad to do it, we would go to Bragg and meet with the wives, and I think that was a great idea.
When we were at Bragg last week, each person that was thereand there were people from all different walks of lifeeach person had a trooper, a man or woman, who was their airborne buddy who had time that they spent with them to help relay the story, and I thought that was very interesting.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Hayes.
Page 161 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LARSON. Just a couple of quick observations, and one coupling on my esteemed colleague's observation about thethere is a question that the chair raised earlier with respect to spousal abuse, that II think it was one of the Marines earlier who also pointed out about the ''60 Minutes'' programming, that clearly this is a problem that is universal. It is not a problem systemic to the military, and although I find it helpful and I think important, the military in many respects is way ahead of the private sector in terms of addressing this kind of issue. So from a human service perspective and from the perspective of notion, clearly this still remains a problem for society. It's one that we should continue to hopefully focus on and ameliorate but understand that this is a universal problem and not a problem germane to military services.
I'm sure, because I've talked to some of you already with respect to my overall concern about child care, child development and education, that it is clear to me that you care deeply about that, and Mr. Chairman, just by way of some background as to my interest, if I may, a senior fellow at the Yale Bush Center that focuses on child development and has access to statistics that are alarming for American children, but specifically with children that are placed in harm's way, and harm's way is when parents are dislocated through no fault of their own, but particularly when they're in the military, and when you find a third of our students showing up to kindergarten not ready to learn, when you look and you see that that best child care is a cosmic crapshoot for parents that are concerned about getting quality, affordable, safe child care, my heart goes out to every parent. I'm fortunate. My wife was able to stay at home with our children, but also in terms of systemic brain development, we now know how important the first 24 to 28 weeks are after birth and how important that's going to be, especially for those of our citizens who we have asked to go and serve on the front lines to make sure their families have a sense of security, that we are addressing forthrightly those concerns.
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Mrs. MCCRAY. Mr. Buyer, I believe it was in 1987 there was the National Military Child Act passed, which when Staff Sergeant Carter mentioned this morning about the 10-hour situation with the CDCs on base, that is because of that legislation, and some of the other child-care issues are because of that legislation.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you. Mr. Larson.
Mr. KUYKENDALL. You all pull at our heart. I don't think that I ever knew how hard it was for my wife. You would like us to fix education for your spouses who want to get another degree while they're in the service, the housing, child care, TRICARE needs some work, work on the budget so we fix things the first time. The LINKS program is what you mentioned might be a good one. I don't know if we can do it all, but we certainly will try to work on all of those things because this military is great because of you. It's because of that spouse network and that family network. You don't expect to have nothing but a million and-a-half bachelors and bachelorettes in the military. We expect there to be people that know how to live life and how to have something that's important to go back to. Your feedback needs to come forward as often as possible.
I particularly feel for you, Mrs. Hackett. My father-in-law was a SAC bomber pilot, 12 hours off, 14-hour missions, but he never put up with the stuff we put up with today. His daughter is who I have been pleased to be married to for a long time, and I can't imagine we're doing this to this force. It's not just the work force. This is the core of our country's people, and it bothers me a great deal to see that. It bothers me also to have so many of my colleagues not have previous service so that they don't have a context in which to put it in, and I will pledge to you that I'll try to help them to improve their contacts because I do have that. That's one of the things I have written into this equation, but you all serve just as much as your spouse does, and we owe it to you just as much as we owe it to your spouse.
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I wish Mrs. Nelson would hurry up and have her baby. Thank you all for coming. If we missed anything on the list, remember our e-mails and let us know about it.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you.
Mr. PICKETT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank our panel very, very much for coming here today and sharing your thoughts and ideas with us. I have a little bit of a leg up because I have two daughters who are military spouses, and they regularly give me an earful about things that need to be changed. So I do thank you for coming here. We're going to try to do our best to make the quality of life in the military better than it is today.
Mr. BUYER. Thank you, Mr. Pickett. Thank you for having us in your congressional district.
Mr. PICKETT. Great to have you here.
Mr. BUYER. I appreciate that. I couldn't help but note, I was stationed at Fort Eustis in the mid-1980's, and as we landed in today, as I looked out to all the piers and only saw just a few boats and ships, wow. I mean, I was here during the mid-1980's and there was a huge Navy. I know there is a lot deployed at the moment, but that's such a strange sight, not to see many ships here in Norfolk. It was very surprising to me.
Page 164 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Basically to restate, this committee wanted to get out of Washington because, ma'am, that's who we see often, are admirals and generals and sergeants and majors, and we wanted to get out and see those who were working and making things happen, and that's our purpose for holding the very first field hearing on such delicate issues of recruiting and retention, so we can better understand in a rational basis.
If we're going to change the retirement system and we're going to increase pay, we're going to address other issues, we need to hear so we can understand the whole of the problem, so we can take back with us a greater understanding, and it isn't just from them. You are part of that equation. So we have, I believe, received valuable input not only from the officer corps but the enlisted and from the military spouses, whether it's the issues you've discussed here today on high operations tempo, the pay, the gap differential, the impact of a good economy, doing too much with too little or the substandard housing, some of the educational concerns, children not seeing Daddy or Mommy much.
I will say this: The problem we have is, we still operate under the pay or under spending caps, and they're acting as if because there is a budget surplus we can get our hands on, do all kinds of things with moneys. Wethat's just not true. So we've talked about different ideas here today, and the Senate is debating a package here today, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there are moneys out there to address a lot of these things, and my sense is, because this issue is so multifaceted that we're going to be doing the balancing test so that the force in fact has its modernization that it needs, that the force will increase the readiness so when you talk about spare parts and things like that they're not frustrated with regard to their career fields, addressing the adequate housing concerns and the pay and benefit and resourcing. So you can see that it's very large in its totality of the circumstance. So our task is very large, but your contribution to our task is very helpful and appreciated by all of us.
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Godspeed to all of you. Appreciate it.
[Whereupon, at 3:15 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
February 22, 1999
[This information is pending.]